Recently I was involved in another auto accident in which I was hit from behind while not moving. To add insult to injury Winnie was also involved in an auto accident, abet much more minor than mine, in another part of town just about one hour later.
Not a great day at all.
My accident was pretty significant. I was driving my Jeep Cherokee to the local commuter lot as a typical workday routine. I was on the access road to the lot in the right lane, just a few hundred feet from the entrance, when traffic in front of me stopped dead for no apparent reason. The speed limit on this road is 35MPH so I had to push my brakes pretty hard to stop without hitting the car in front of me. I was looking in my rear-view mirror and saw the car behind me not slowing down. At all. So I grabbed the steering wheel and braced for impact.
The other driver didn’t appear to try and swerve away or even hit their brakes. At impact all the air bags in the other car were deployed, and my Jeep was pushed about two feet forward with brakes locked (as shown by skid marks from my tires). It was a solid hit, the worse I’ve yet experienced. I felt lucky that I wasn’t pushed into the car in front of me.
As I got out a passing driver called out to me “she [other driver] was texting,” then kept on going. I walked back to the other car as the driver was crawling out under the now-deflated side airbags and yelled “Where you texting!” She looked confused, said “no” and looked at our cars in obvious shock. I calmed down a bit, asked if she needed medical care and when she said “no” I called 911 for police. Then I called Winnie to let her know I was already having a really bad day.
I passed the time waiting for the cop inspecting damages to my Jeep. It was apparent that the other car was totaled. It was a small Toyota Camry and had run under the rear of my Jeep, completely destroying the top of the engine compartment. My trailer hitch was embedded in the Camry’s radiator and fluids from the car were leaking over the highway.
There was a constant stream of commuters driving past in the left lane. I couldn’t help notice that despite the obvious significant damage, not one driver even slowed down to ask if we needed assistance or offered aid.
In due time a cop arrived, I exchanged insurance information with the other driver and the cop took a report. The other driver finally realized she was in bad shape and the cop called an ambulance for her, along with a Fire and Rescue crew. I had tried to drive my Jeep forward, under the cop’s direction, to separate our two cars but my trailer hitch was embedded in the other car so firmly I actually dragged the car with me. It took a couple of rescue workers using hammers and pry bars to get our cars separated. Winnie arrived just as my Jeep was freed, the cop dismissed me, and Winnie and I sat in the commuter lot for a few minutes talking. Then she left for work.
I drove home and let my client and Team Leader know I would be taking the day off, by reason that I lost interest in doing any useful work. I just finished informing them when I received a panicked call from Winnie. All I could make out was “I just got hit,” then she hung up. I called back, no answer, and was heading out the door to try and locate her when she called back.
While Winnie was driving to work a car was tailgating her, with the driver apparently talking on her cellphone. Winnie had to stop for a red light and the other car bumped into her. Winnie immediately jumped out, cellphone in hand, and the other driver back her car up and moved slowly to Winnie’s left, in the left-hand turn lane. As the car backed up Winnie got some photos of the license plate. The other driver pulled up next to Winnie, then kept right on going.
It was a low-impact “bump,” and Winnie told me her car was ok to get to work. So the rest of the morning I alternated between calling my insurance company, and calling the police non-emergency number to report Winnie’s incident as a hit-and-run. It turned out that where Winnie was hit was in a different county and different police jurisdiction, which was yet a different police jurisdiction than where Winnie actually worked. I made arrangements to have Winnie and I meet the county police after Winnie got off work that afternoon at a location in the county of jurisdiction. Then got my Jeep to the body shop to start the claims and repair process.
That evening we did meet the police and Winnie did make her report. Damages to her car were minor, mostly light scuffing and scratches on her rear bumper, so the cop and I agree we would not press charges against the other driver. We did agree that the police would “Install the fear of God” in the other driver over leaving the scene. The cop used Winnie’s photos to record the license plate number and identify the car model. We left, and went to a dinner at a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate the both of us surviving a really bad day.
I think what struck me, in both incidents, was the complete lack of empathy shown by other drivers not involved in our accidents. In my case, it was about fifteen minutes after impact before the cop arrived, and during that time not one single driver checked on us or offered any assistance. In fact, just as the cop arrived two drivers who had just passed us, side-by-side in the two lanes, got into a “road rage” incident; one driver started yelling at the other and both stopped their cars (blocking both lanes of the road going into the commuter lot) and got into a heated argument standing in the road. The cop arriving for us started walking down to the scene and both men jumped back into their cars and drove off.
I started wondering if it was a full moon.
In Winnie’s case, it was the other driver leaving the scene without talking to, or even acknowledging, Winnie’s presence. We’re hopeful the other driver is located and their insurance company forced to compensate our deductible for repairs to Winnie’s car.
I have to wonder just what is happening to our country, that people seem so callous and indifferent to those around them. Is this really a country we can be proud of?