That time I witnessed a car accident

I witnessed a car accident today, on my way to pick the big girls up from kindergarten. We usually walk, but today Zoe and I had run an all important errand to Garden Ridge for random decorative crap.

If you’re not from Texas and don’t know what the hell Garden Ridge is, think humongous, unsavory-looking orange warehouse filled to the brim with all things home decor. And scrubs. I have no idea why they carry scrubs, but if you’re in the market, they’re over by the wicker baskets.

I was following a black sedan down a house-lined road with a relatively slow speed limit when a black SUV approached from the opposite direction and went to turn left into a driveway, directly in front of the sedan. Like SO RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER it was obvious she just didn’t see her. The sedan slammed on her brakes, but there was no time. Her front end crunched into the passenger side of the SUV. I pulled over, already reaching for my phone to call 911.

EVERYONE IS OKAY. Thank God. Had the sedan been going faster, or the SUV, who knows how much worse it could have been than a crushed hood and dented side. Fire and EMS were on the scene within minutes, and man, did those people get to work. Much respect.

 

I learned a few things about myself during the scenario. Not that it’s even about me, because it isn’t, and had everyone not been okay, I’d likely be telling a different story. But as much as we try to prepare, sometimes we never really know how we will react in these situations.

 

1. I am quick enough to think to call 911 and try to get someone out there. Tell me what to do, and I can follow directions like a boss.ย I maintained a clear head, dictated our location, the makes of the vehicles, and exactly what was going on, including whether or not anyone was in dire need of medical assistance. And I managed to hold onto the mallowcreme pumpkins I may or may not have been about to pop into my mouth when the accident occurred. So I’m also resourceful?

2. I am NOT responsive enough to immediately jump into the scene. As I was on the phone with 911, I could hear the driver of the sedan wailing. The driver of the SUV ran over and helped her out of her car. Turns out she had a little girl, maybe 18 months, strapped into her carseat. ย Was I hesitant because I saw people already responding? Or was it because I couldn’t think past what I was already doing, which wasย on the phone and being passed around more times than a doobie at a Phish concert?

Sometimes I am too self absorbed for my own good. I don’t think that I am the “run into a burning building” type. We all play scenarios out in our heads, and we’d like to be the ones who valiantly pull victims from dangerous situations, but in the heat of the moment, I kinda froze. Let’s all hope that a) that status won’t stand when my own children are hurt or in danger; and b) I never have to test that with my own children.

3. I am terrible a cop-speak. I’m all, “She was going that way, she was coming this way, SHE turned in front of HER at the last second, and SHE…” and he’s all, “Who exactly was doing what, and OMG CIVILIAN, YOU ARE KILLING ME.” So I had to stumble through a cop-appropriate version using makes and models and possibly directions. It was rough.

 

Let me reiterate, everyone was okay, just shaken up. But the scariest part about this accident is how out of your control things can be some times. You can be driving as safely as you can, all eyes on the road, and it won’t necessarily matter. Someone else who isn’t paying attention or just plain didn’t see you can pull out right in front of you. I saw every move of that accident with my own eyes. There was no way the sedan could have avoided hitting the SUV that turned in front of her. It was a good reminder to remain attentive while driving and make sure your kids are appropriately strapped in. I know how easy it is to rush through the strapping and the clicking and the tightening.

And maybe since she was paying attention and not speeding, she was able to keep the damage to a minimum, and she and her little girl got to walk away today.

 

Have you ever witnessed an accident? What did you do?

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33 Comments

  1. My husband makes me watch Cops with him, so I’m slightly familiar with the cop-speak. Though if I was put on the spot and actually had to speak with one, I’ll probably be just like you.
    I’m glad everyone was okay, and I agree about taking the extra minute or so to ensure that all the children are properly secured in their carseats. I can’t tell you what a nazi I am about that.
    I witnessed an accident once, many years ago. I was in the car with two others, in the passenger seat, it was maybe 3am on a Saturday morning (I was 29, what). We were at a traffic light at a huge cross junction. A car on our right wobbled past, ignoring the red light we were all sitting at, and from the left, a black car ZIPPED by so fast, and hit the wobbly car (it looked like the driver was drunk?) so hard, it flipped and went across 2-3 lanes (but no other cars were around, fortunately). It was a hit and run. It was awful.

    1. How terrible. I can’t believe the other car was still in good enough condition to drive off!

  2. I witnessed an accident. I had my littles with me. It was scary. All people were okay. Minor cuts from broken glass and super shaken up, but no serious injuries. I immediately parked and ran over to see if anyone needed serious attention, while making the 911 call. I grabbed baby wipes and my first aid kit to help with the cuts. While on the phone with 911, I realized though that I wasn’t paying enough attention when I was driving. This accident happened right in front of me yet I couldn’t tell the operator who hit who. When officers arrived on scene, I was basically a useless witness. I think I too, was shaken.

    1. It’s interesting how we can be on autopilot when driving and not really see what’s around us. But other than that, it sounds like you were a real “do-er.” Great job!

  3. It sounds to me like you exhibited just the right amount of instinctive reaction and thoughtful response: while you were calling 911, one of the drivers (the one who was likely at fault) went to assist the other. You had Zoe in the car. My guess is that without even realizing it, you assessed that situation in your heart and stayed with your child while an adult helped another adult.

    Totally makes sense to me.

    When we had our house fire last January, I was surprised by how clearly and calmly I was able to think in the moment (and by some of the split-second decisions I made) especially because my brain went foggy for weeks afterward.

    You are smart, caring and generous. I have no doubt you’d be a good person to have around in an emergency. I just hope emergencies stay away from you ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I can’t imagine having to act in a REAL emergency. I’m so glad you had a clear head. It’s interesting how we can snap into logical action when we really need to. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Living in SoCal, I have witnessed MANY accidents and also have been in a couple. It’s a terrifying experience. I have called 911 before after seeing some bad ones but it takes a moment to process it all. Cars are just machines and they can break. BAD!!

  5. I saw a car in front of me skid off the road in the rain at the foot of a bridge. It happened so fast I was already passed them (and lucky that I didn’t hit them). When I looked in my mirrors people were stopping to help so I kept going (we were on the interstate). It was so scary. I would like to think I would help, but I’m pretty sure I would have done the exact same as you.

    1. That does sound scary. I’m glad others stopped to help that car. And glad you didn’t hit them!

  6. Having been a 911 dispatcher for over 10 years, I talked to all kinds. You don’t have to know cop speak to give good information, but knowing your location is so important! Also: I could give CPR instructions while eating sushi ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hahaha! I bet you could. I think it’s awesome that you were a 911 dispatcher. They were great. It was talking to the actual cop that I stumbled. That uniform can be so intimidating.

  7. I’m MARRIED to a cop and still have trouble with cop speak sometimes – especially if I’m shaken up after something like that. hell, I still get nervous when I’m pulled over for a traffic infraction!! (which doesn’t happen often, but ya know… I like to go FAST!) ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I think you did a great job, and YES. ALWAYS make sure those precious gifts are buckled properly. XO

    1. I got pulled over in front of my own house once for a tail light that was out. Since I was only a house away, I put on my blinker and turned into my driveway, and he started blaring his siren. When he came over, he was all, “Ma’am, when I turn my lights on, you need to PULL OVER! Did it ever occur to you that I may have been trying to get BY you?” And I was all, “No, because i knew you were pulling me over for my tail light, and no, because I’m not a cop. I DON’T THINK LIKE YOU.” I didn’t say that last part. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. You did a good thing. Accidents terrify me, and when people are hurt, I have to say that I’m not so sure I’d have a heroic response. The 911 call was really the only thing you could have done at the time, and considering you had your own child in the car, the right decision.

    I don’t even know what cop speak sounds like, but your CIVILIAN PLEASE line made me giggle. Glad everyone was okay!

    1. I seriously think I can only handle one task at a time. Which doesn’t really explain why I have 37 tabs open on my computer right now.

  9. I witnessed one on the other side of the freeway once. I was going 70 and could not stop to help at that point but I said a prayer that the people were okay. I hope it worked. I imagine if I had been in the same situation as you I would done about the same….

  10. Accidents are so scary. I have been in an accident, but haven’t witnessed one happen – I hope that I would react in the same way you did. I am not sure whether I am the rush in and rescue type person or not, either – especially if my boys were in the car with me.

    1. I don’t think we ever know until we are in the situation. And I hope I don’t have to find out again!

  11. More new drivers should be taught DEFENSIVE DRIVING. It’s the element that keeps people alive, sometimes. I’m so glad you’re OK!

    This is why I get so mad when I see people texting and driving, or getting into their cars after too much to drink. There is too much at stake.

    1. Exactly, and I’m afraid for too many that it is a lesson learned too late. Or at least with too close of a call.

  12. This was such a great read. You absolutely did the right thing in calling for emergency services straight away. As for your emergency phone call – they are trained to understand frantic individuals however it can never hurt to be prepared and educated in what to do after an accident!

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