Saturday, October 11, 2008

Crash...and Count

I got caught in a traffic jam yesterday, and contemplated: "I have never actually seen an accident occur." I've heard them off in the distance, and driven by them after the fact, but have never witnessed a smash 'em up. Thank God, because I don't know what I'd do. I'm not good with blood, you know.

She contemplated too soon, she did. I had Mom over for dinner this evening, and then loaded her and her doggie up at 8 pm to take them home.

Approaching the second stoplight from my house, I yelped "Ohmigod, that car just ran the red..." KAPOWWWWWWwwwwwwwww. I watched as the offending car hit another that didn't see it, as I had. Both cars were spinning, and the air looked like someone had sneezed glass and debris. I remember it now in some weird slow motion as I moved through the intersection: in front of me, then out of the driver's window, then in my rearview mirror. That car missed my car by seconds. My cell phone was in the cupholder, and I was dialing 911 before I hit the brakes.

In 4 lanes of traffic, I had to wait before I could turn the car back, and told the dispatcher as much: "I don't know if anyone's hurt, I'm trying to get back there." He told me help was on the way, and to call back if there were injuries.

I did a U-turn and ran through the traffic and the gawkers to find a dazed older couple. The gentleman was out of the car, his wife still seated in the passenger seat. A younger person stood at her side. Everyone said they were ok, and I began to run off, "where's the other driver?" The young person told me "I'm the other driver," and assured me they were ok. We were left facing the passenger, then, who kept saying she was ok, but was holding her chest, crying, unable to breath, and unable to get out of the car. A woman across the street held 9-1-1 on her phone, yelling to us, "do we need an ambulance?"

God. I don't know. Yes! Yes, just send an ambulance.

Looking back, it seems like I actually kept my wits about me, huh? I called for help, and raced to the victims.

But the event was then laced with bizarre insecurities: Before the rescue squads arrived, I called Clint, and morphed into Vicki Lawrence in Carol Burnett's rendition of Gone with the Wind. Squawking that we were waiting for the police, oh here they come, I'll call you back!! Click.

Squad cars, firetrucks, ambulances arrived. I decided that I should move my car. As I get back in, I realized that at this particular intersection there are no driveways, no parking lots, just concrete curbs for 1/4 mile almost every direction.

So I called Clint again. I'm driving around! can't find a place to park! Will the police really want to talk to me? Is it necessary for me to go back?

He calmly told me to park on the south side of the intersection, and yes, the police will want to talk to me.

Oh! The south side! Yes. There's no curb there. I can pull over. Yes. I'll call you back. Click.

Seriously, how the heck he could just picture the intersection and tell me exactly where to park is beyond me.

For the record, the driver of the car that ran the red light did not seem inebriated or impaired in any way. Distracted, maybe. In a hurry, obviously. The police officer that took the report indicated the driver claimed to have faulty brakes. Usually diplomatic during conversations in which I might be accusing someone, I popped off, "well, they must have been shot altogether then, because that car FLEW through the intersection."

Seriously, have you ever had the brake fluid go out of your car, and have the brake pedal sink to the floor? You can usually pump it and stop the car eventually, but it is unsettling. What you do then is, if you're SURE that the car will still stop, you baby that car all the way to The Brake Shop, and do not pass Go, and do not collect $200. If you're not sure, you do NOT drive it, and you do NOT fly down a busy road at 15 mph over the speed limit, hoping to catch all of the green lights and coast in to your final destination. Just my opinion.

The officer seemingly nodded agreement with me; the impact of the accident was severe, the driver would be ticketed for running a red light, and would still have to get a report proving the faulty brakes.

It turned out that I was the only witness to the accident, so it was good I turned around.

I called Clint again: "Ok, we're done, I gave the report. You see this stuff every day, but it's never happened to me, and wow, wow, wow, that was crazy, and blah blah blah. I'll call you after I drop Mom off, ok? Click.

I heard rumors that it was about this time that some of the other guys Clint work with began teasing him my frequent phone calls. I'm so red-faced. No matter how much he reassures me, I'm self-conscious about calling him at work for fear of being perceived as a clingy girlfriend.

So I called him again.

AND I went by the station to see him, and tell him the entire story, all over again. In the midst of that, I told him "I have to go, this gave me an upset stomach." Click.

In the end, there didn't appear to be any serious injuries, but I'd wager that everyone in that collision is going to need an Advil regimen for the next few days.

And now I review: How DID I do in face of emergency? Well, on some ways, pretty good, and in others, eh.

Calling for help immediately: A+

I forgot to tell you that as I approached the car to ask if the people were ok, someone approached me and said "Hi, Lori." I bluntly replied, "Hi. I don't know who you are."

Social Graces: D-

Making sure everyone was ok: A+

Having any idea if they were really ok or not? D

Relaying the accident to the police: B-.

I would have given myself an A, but after all of that spinning, and cars ending up on roads they were not originally traveling, I have to admit that if I'd have to point out WHICH car ran the red light, I could never have done it. My report went as such "whoever was driving North ran the light." I was clear on that.

So. I think that averages out to "Average." I'm relatively happy with myself for just racing up and getting into the middle of something that I'd normally find scary. Seriously, if you cut your finger, do not come to me for help, I will faint dead away. I'll even get woozy if you describe it to me later.

But that's all I got. How'd I'd react to blood or bones, I don't know, and I never want to find out.

I'm extremely thoughtful about where we were in proximity to that car racing the red light tonight. I stopped, just before we left the house tonight, to tape my sister's birthday present to her card. I'd say that we missed that accident by the time it takes to tear off a piece of tape from the dispenser.

It would have been the passenger side, where my mother was seated.

Indeed, another Count Your Blessings Day.


  1. It sounds like you did pretty well. I've seen a few accidents like that and it does become hard to tell who did what since the aftermath tends to overshadow the actual event.

    I've also been the one getting smashed into by the light runner, though in my case that guy was running from the cops and kept going even though my car was pretty much done for. We didn't get hurt either though. Modern cars are something else!

  2. I think you did great so many people here in Miami would have just kept going.

  3. I think you did a great job! You stopped - more than a lot of people would have done (not even sure what I would have done).

    As for all the phone calls - who says you can't ask for help, too. :-) You called someone who could give you the answers and reassurance needed, both professionally and personally (how does he pull those things out of his head?). Sounds like you made the right call on all counts.

    Now, as for the comment about the faulty breaks - good for you!! I think you were plenty tactful not to bring it up before then. :-) I'm so glad you and your mom were just that few seconds behind. Hopefully today will be a bit quieter for y'all.

  4. I drove through a 6 car pileup on US51 once in my cab. It happened when I was about 3/8 mile back, so all of a sudden the cars started spinning and a huge cloud of dust rose. I had pleanty of time to slow down, but a couple of the cars were still slowly moving as I crept through the wreakage. Just like the movies, only real.

  5. All in all, well done. Scary ~ and well done. Hugs to you.

    Oh, and I totally get the clingy girlfriend thing. I am loathe to call Lithus when he's on tour when he off or isn't flying for that very reason.

  6. Anonymous6:50 PM

    Good job Lori, how did your mom handle everything? You did good. Kelly

  7. You did amazing. I'm freaking out and I wasn't even there.

  8. Shaun8:07 AM

    I just want to say thanks for stopping and telling the police what you saw. The one accident I was in no one stuck around. It was completely the other drivers fault and fortunately she didn't try to deny it, but if she had it would have been my word against hers. Only one person got out of their car and said they called 911, and it wasn't just a little fender bender. Full on crash in the middle of one of the busiest intersections of the city.

  9. StFarmer8:34 AM

    As someone who has reviewed many, many insurance claim files, I can tell you that those folks were pretty lucky. I can also tell you taht you did a good thing by sticking around and checking on everybody.

    You're my hero.

  10. Mike: Scary. Haven't been in an accident since I've been driving (knock on wood).

    LML: I can't imagine "keep on going."

    Karla: Sunday much quieter, no crash 'em ups, yay!

    CabDriver: You are the Terminat-ahhh

    Pobs: Heh. He tells me to call any time. I try to overcome that...and then they tease me. Hmph!

    Kelly: Mom was settled once I told her there were no children in the accident. She's all about the babies.

    Laurie: I freaked too. And cheered those emergency staff that come out to deal with this stuff every day.

    Shaun: Yeeks. Was it THIS town? I'm imagining the busiest intersections. Glad you're ok!

    StFarmer: You're MY hero!

  11. Sounds like you did very well. Many others would have seen the accident and called a friend to talk about what they'd just seen.

    I was amused by your grading system, though.

  12. I am glad you are ok. It does get tougher when there are injuries involved. I try to help but I usually end up feeling sick. I would give you an A+ for a first time.

  13. Scary to imagine even being a witness!

    I havn't witnessed any accindents other than those of Butt-passionate-kissing-of-bumpers :)
    If I do, I'm sure I would be shaking so bad and forget anything else to do :(

    You are so much braver Lori and the promptness of your action was awesome!

    About the million phone calls you made in panic mode - Isn't that why Boyfriend's are for? ;-)
    Kudos on how Clint handled it though!

  14. You did great. In such a situation, average is pretty much the top of the heap.

  15. Lori - the one time I witnessed an accident in front of me, I was a MESS! You should be commended; you did great. A+++++


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