Not a pretty sight, is it? That’s a photo of a 1949 Studebaker — my 1949 Studebaker — after someone left a drive-through coffee shop and, far too intent on his coffee to check for traffic, pulled directly out in front of me.
That was many years ago. Fortunately I wasn’t injured, and the bodyshop was able to fix my truck, and to this day we’re still together. I think I still have a reputation with the local tow truck company, though, after one of its drivers watched me scream so furiously at the guy who hit me that I made him cry.
Even then, it wasn’t over. The impact crumpled the front bumper into the tire, so my Stude had to stay in the middle of the road for a while. Of course that prompted some serious rubbernecking from other drivers, one of whom plowed into the back of the city bus that had stopped to pick up passengers.
(The attending cop was writing down my information, and he didn’t even look up when he heard the bang. He just shook his head. Apparently these secondary collisions happen all the time.)
I refuse to use the word “accident,” which is defined by the dictionary as “an event that is without apparent cause, or is unexpected.” The crash that smashed my hot rod was not without cause. The driver didn’t check for traffic, and pulled out in front of an oncoming vehicle. You can expect a crash when someone does that. As for the woman who slammed into the bus, the cause was someone looking one way while the vehicle was moving in another. Yes, you can expect a big bang there, too.
Far too many drivers just cruise on autopilot, without thinking about the consequences. At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon (although that’s exactly what I am), I believe it’s getting worse. Frustrated with traffic that’s made them late, distracted by phones, and with a “me-first” attitude, too many drivers just worry about getting their vehicles into the spaces where they want to be. To them, a crash is an accident, because they never expected any consequences. Their tunnel vision just showed them the empty space, without revealing anyone else around it.
Some years ago, I did a story on a police traffic unit that deals strictly with fatalities. I’m sure it was some sort of in-house hazing that had them showing me the photos, and I think they were a little disappointed when I didn’t turn white and run for the bathroom (I used to work at a surgical supply company, where I’d read graphic medical journals during lunch). But I can tell you that, after seeing bodies with their limbs torn off and their brains exposed, I don’t think I ever drove more carefully than I did on my trip home. If we want to alleviate issues like drunk or distracted driving, we shouldn’t show people photos of crashed cars, but of crashed people.
But my editor here wouldn’t allow it even if I had any, and so instead, I’ll show you this photo of a way-cool ride after an encounter with someone who wasn’t paying attention. He’s just lucky he didn’t hit a motorcycle or bicycle, or a pedestrian, because he might have killed someone. Are you driving without thinking? If you are, then think again.