Friday, June 24, 2022

A bad accident, a search for answers

 Just over a year ago I was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. Thankfully I was in a car rather than on my Royal Enfield motorcycle, so I survived. Even so, the emotional "impact" has prevented me from writing about it before now. It is not a pleasant memory.

The accident could have been much worse, but there were painful injuries to all parties, and two cars were written off. Many sleepless nights followed, and not just because Ibuprofen could not erase the hurt.

I kept replaying the experience in my mind. What could possibly have caused this accident?

I was ticketed, based on the reporting officer's best guess about what had happened. She encouraged me to consider fighting the charges in court, as she could not be certain of her conclusions.

This was no surprise, as I could not initially explain the accident either. The other driver involved would have had no warning at all and likely would have no idea of the cause.

I did go to court, but the officer did not, and the charges were dismissed because she did not appear. I had prepared a defense but, with no chance to deliver it in court, I can't know how convincing it might have been.

I do not live near the crash site so, in the hope of finding answers for my defense I used Google Street View to revisit the scene. There, on the roadway, chipped and scarred by the many vehicles that had hit it before me, was the cause of the accident, I felt sure.

Confirmation came from an unexpected source: the owner of the car I was driving informed me that, unknown to me, it had a dash cam. It allowed him to play back the accident. He provided me with the video. He wasn't sure I would want to see it, because watching it would be frightening.

Of course I had to see it. I wanted some sort of closure.

Oddly, it was not frightening to watch: the accident happened so quickly that the video, even played at half speed, was over before the viewer's emotions could kick in. In the sense of "my whole life flashed in front of me" I would have expected the action to take much longer. It does, in Hollywood movies.

In real life, my life, and your life, can end in an instant. I knew that. But coming so close really drove the point home.

The video confirmed what I had guessed: the obstruction triggered this accident.

What lessons to take from this? Well, I'm deeply sorry that my wife, as a passenger, and the other driver involved had to experience the full measure of physical and emotional pain.

Already notoriously the slowest driver in our family, I have slowed down even more. I think that is the natural response.

Maybe it will help. I hate to add "next time," so as to acknowledge that there can be a next time.

In the weeks after the accident I wrote to highway authorities, supplying photos and the video to encourage them to address the problem on the road.

It was very difficult to even determine which department was responsible for this length of roadway. It turned out to be, of all agencies, a park district, one that is famously strapped for money to tend its roads.

A helpful contact person promised to let me know what the district would do. I have heard nothing in the months since then.

Obviously I am not confident that anything will be done. I haven't been back past the accident scene to examine it, but I expect it's unchanged.

I know that I am changed. Forever.

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