I’m not perfect when it comes to driving, that’s for sure.
I’ve been pulled over a few times in my life. I’ve hit deer, had an accident caused by icy conditions and probably, more than a few times, avoided a serious accident by the stroke of luck.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to be smarter with driving. I’d say *most* of the time, that works. Not always. But for the most part, I try to do things right and carefully. If my phone is used in the car, it’s speak to text or hands-free talking. Even then, I tend to try and do it as little as possible.
It drives me nuts when I see people driving and texting and the like. And maybe I’m to a point now where I want to turn on the feature on iPhones (not sure if others have this) where if somebody texts you and you are driving, it sends a message saying you are driving.
There’s a reason for this post. And I promise it will all make sense. However, this one has the potential of being longer, so hopefully you can stay with me.
First, at the end of April, I was pulled over on the interstate. I was ticketed for doing 80 in a 65 (note: my cruise was set for lower than 80, but I knew I was going to try and work with the court anyway and being it was 10:45 at night, I wasn’t up for an argument with a trooper). I responded to the ticket and was able to get into a driver diversion program. I took the 6-hour safe driving course online, sent in all the needed paperwork and my ticket was forgiven. It just cost me what it took to get into the program, and the cost of the course.
Was it an expense I didn’t need? Absolutely. But, sometimes things happen for a reason.
Ever since then, I’ve gone slower. Is it because I don’t want to deal with that again? Of course. But another part of me notes that it’s better. If you are driving, say, 70, instead of 75-78 — how much faster do you actually get somewhere. Over a two or three hour trip… 10 minutes? 15? Is it worth the aggravation?
I say all of this because of something that happened to me this week. What happened has left me a bit shaken and though I know it will pass, it’s really been weighing heavily on my mind and deep into my thoughts.
This past week, I was heading home from one of the districts where I work. I was taking a back road, as I normally do. For those of you in the area and know the roads, it’s on the backside of the river between Hamden and Walton.
I’ve driven this road many times in my lifetime. Probably in the thousands. There are some hairy places on it and people don’t always pay attention to the posted speeds. There are some sharp corners and some flats where the one side drops down into the river. There are also some tight spots where getting two cars side by side can be nerve-racking.
It was a rainy day, so it was wet out. That, of course, makes things slippery and would warrant slowing down.
As I headed home, I was just moving along under the speed limit as some of the corners worry me in their own right. The one that always makes me worry is a sharp turn that, as you come from the Hamden side, curves back toward your side of the road, but down a little hill. It’s fully blind, too, so if you take it too quickly, it could end badly. There’s also a good 4- to 6-foot culvert there as well.
On this day, I was approaching and a truck came barreling around the corner from the Hamden direction. It was a mid-size red truck with a wood bed, instead of the normal bed. That usually means it was lighter than normal.
This person was definitely not close to the speed limit and as he hit the corner, he came over into my side. Of course when he saw me, he needed to correct himself. That caused a fishtail. When going that speed, you don’t have the control you want. I slowed and got over as far as I could.
I can only piece together so much of what happened next. I remember most, but not all. With that in mind, when it was happening, it felt like it was in slow motion.
The other driver came around that corner, tried to correct and started to fishtail back and forth. His whole truck was going back and forth and we missed a head-on collision by mere inches. He kept in the fishtail all the way past me and I’m still not sure how he didn’t hit me at any point.
He tried to keep it straight and correct but he had no luck and ended up barreling into the culvert. And hitting at least one tree with the back-end of his truck.
At that point, I had two choices: keep driving or stop. I chose to stop.
I’ve had mixed reactions as to what others would have done. Some said they would have left because, legally, they don’t have to stay. Others have said they would have stopped as well but likely wouldn’t have handled it the way I did.
I’m actually shocked I handled it the way I did.
I was calm with it all. I checked to make sure the guy was OK. If we needed to call anybody. There was some blood on the road and some items strewed about the culvert as his window had been open. My guess is he cracked his head during all of this. He definitely seemed a bit woozy as he tried to get his truck out of there. But I noted to him that I didn’t think he was going anywhere as his back axle look snapped.
He said he was going to call some people to help. I went back to my vehicle. Neighbors came out. Asked if I was OK and then asked if he had been going too fast. I noted that, yes, it sure seemed like it. I am sure living on that corner, those people have seen a lot of fast cars go by.
I went back to my car and was shaking. I decided to get back out again and check the situation. I asked again about calling. He said no he was dealing with it. The neighbors were there too. The driver noted I didn’t have to do anything as it wasn’t my fault.
Well, no shit it wasn’t my fault. I had been going under the speed limit on my side of the road.
I ended up leaving soon after. I did call a police officer friend and asked if I needed to stay. He said no — as long as I wasn’t involved and all, I didn’t have to do anything. So off I went.
The thing is, I was pretty shaken up about this. I still am. All the way home, all I could think about is if I left for work a few seconds earlier. Or if I had been driving a mile or so more an hour. I’d have been closer to the actual curve and there would have been zero chance of missing a head-on collision. And at the rate of speed he was going, there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t have reached my next birthday. Or if I did, who knows what kind of shape I would have been in.
That night when I got home and after I ate, I went for a walk with Harper. I got a bit emotional to myself thinking about how if seconds had changed, I may not have been walking Harper that night or ever again. And for the past several days, these things have crossed my mind as well.
It’s now been about five days or so since this happened. I’m better, but still a bit shook up about it. I’m sure time will continue to help this. I’ve heard who the person was and some other info, but what’s done is done. That doesn’t even matter to me. A day or two after this happened, I talked to one of the school social workers – somebody I’ve known for probably 30 years. She gave me some good thoughts on how to kind of get my stress down and how to ease through this. So I’m working on things a bit.
I’m also avoiding that back road for probably a long time. I’ve seen and had a few other close calls on that road (not this close though). People go at a higher rate of speed, and there’s a few other corners that can make you anxious.
The reality is, I know this was a massive close call. How close, I don’t know. But I don’t think it would have ended well for me if we had gone head on, that’s for sure.
I’m going to end this post with some other thoughts. I’m not perfect and I’ve had some distracted driving. But it seems like it’s getting crazier. People don’t slow down or stop when people are in crosswalks, and you can see they are doing other things. I’m not sure how many times over the past month where somebody has started to come over into my lane because they are obviously looking down and on their phone. Or how many times people have passed in illegal areas, cut corners at high rates and all sorts of other things.
Slow down. Enjoy the trip a little. Give yourself the time. Learn and change things up before it’s too late.
Life is short already. Don’t make it even shorter with stupid decisions.
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