I can count the number of car accidents I’ve been in on one hand with fingers left over, even after recently having someone run into me. I’d come to a stop because a car in front of me came to a stop and I have this memory, although it’s a bit fuzzy, of looking in the rearview mirror and thinking, That white car behind me is coming up awfully fast. Then there was a bump, and a second bump, and, after I put the car in park, I got out. The young woman in the white car that had crashed into me got out, and there was a red car behind her that was angled as the guy driving it had tried to swerve but crashed anyway. And we all three yelled at each other, in unison, “Are you all right?”
After confirming that the three of us seemed to be okay we stepped off to the side—luckily this all happened right next to an abandoned parking lot—and started the process of making calls and sharing information. I called the non-emergency number to file a police report and was told the white car that hit me had a crash alert and that police, the fire department, and EMTs, including an off-duty EMT who just happened to be driving by and stopped to make sure we were all okay before the others showed up, were on their way.
And then the sharing really started. We all introduced ourselves, I got the insurance information from the other two drivers, and the young woman who’d been driving the white car told me she’d lived in Nashville her entire life, she was an assistant manager at a coffee shop, and she’d just gotten her father an Alaskan cruise for Christmas. I hope he doesn’t read this or, if he does, that it’s not a surprise.
I didn’t learn as much about the guy who’d been driving the red car, but we all did have a nice chat, standing around in the noonday sun on hot asphalt while cars went by, crackling over the debris of our accidents. The other two cars needed to be towed—I also learned the young woman has a brother who owns a tow truck, so she had that taken car of—but I was able to drive away. So, after we’d all been checked out, given our statements to the police, and exchanged the necessary and unnecessary information, I, feeling a bit awkward, said, “Well, it’s nice to have met both of you. I wish the circumstances had been better.” Then I left.
That is, of course, not the end of the story. There’s still insurance to deal with. I’m the only one who’s not at fault so at least I’ve got that going for me. I also felt really calm, and that worried me. I’ve read about people who walked away from near death experiences thinking they were the bravest person in the world only to have a breakdown a few days, or even a few weeks, later. Is that going to happen to me?
Maybe not. The other accidents I’ve been in have left me a little shaken but with no lingering effects. In eighth grade my father was driving me and some friends to school and had stopped at an intersection when a van that was going well over the speed limit slammed into the back of his car. I was in the front seat with my seatbelt on and I distinctly remember blacking out briefly then thinking someone had hit the car with a rock before my friend John said, “We’ve been hit.” The trunk of my father’s car was completely crushed and I had to get out and wrench the back door open so my friends could get out. Luckily my father had just traded in his Pinto.
This the first time I’ve been in an accident as the driver, and, even though I wasn’t at fault, there’s nothing good about being in an accident. I tense up a little when I’ve stopped at a red light or a stop sign and I see cars coming toward me in the rearview mirror, but going forward I keep my eyes on the road ahead. That’s all I can do.