Yesterday afternoon, Saturday, Winnie and I were witness to a relatively minor auto accident. Minor in that no one appeared seriously hurt even though three vehicles were involved. We were one of the first on the scene to actually stop. I did the Good Samaritan bit and helped out until the pros arrived then left.
Not a big deal as these things go, but after some reflection last night I dredged up feelings from an earlier incident.
Winnie and I were driving along a main road coming up to an intersection when traffic suddenly stopped. I waited my normal “New York Minute” and honked the horn. Traffic moved over to the left lane making it apparent that there had been an accident of some type up ahead. Sure enough, when traffic cleared I saw a small car stopped in the right-hand lane with a crushed front end. Steam was billowing out from the engine. I observed two other vehicles, a large SUV and a van both seemingly undamaged, stopped a short way beyond this car. I drove past the wreck, pulled over between the van and SUV and jumped out to help.
A small group of people were already standing around on the sidewalk. I went over to the wrecked car and saw a man standing by the driver’s side window. Looking inside, I saw a young woman (mid-20s) with a bloody nose in the driver’s seat. I saw that the airbags had deployed but didn’t see any other passengers; Thank God there were no small children inside.
The woman was obviously in shock. I asked the man standing next to the car if he thought the woman was all right; He said “Yes.” I asked him if he had a cellphone; He held one up and said “I’ve already called the ambulance.” I went back to my SUV and pulled out a package of three flares from my roadside emergency kit. Winnie came with me as I lit the flares and placed them on the roadway to divert traffic.
I finished, went back to the wreck to again check on the the woman. She was still behind the steering wheel talking incoherently, sobbing, her nose still bleeding. The man standing there asked me if I had a clean towel or rag for her nose. I trotted over to our SUV, found one, trotted back and handed it to him. He in turn handed it to the woman.
By now I saw an ambulance screaming towards us. I stood with the man a few moments listening to the woman in the car sobbing and talking incoherently, the man talking to keep her calm. He suggested we try and move the car off the road; I said “no, don’t touch the car. The pros are almost here. I have flares out, let the pros handle it.” He stuck out his hand, we shook and introduced ourselves.
The ambulance pulled up to the accident site and paramedics poured out, a second ambulance now screaming towards us. I told the man I was going to leave as I hadn’t seen the accident so couldn’t be of any further help. The man replied “I didn’t see anything either.” This surprised me. I had made an assumption he was either directly involved or witnessed the accident. He explained he just stopped to try and help the same way I did.
I walked back to our SUV with the accident area rapidly being filled by ambulances and paramedics. I saw a small group of three women, one man, and some early teens children standing on the sidewalk watching. One of the woman called over “thanks for stopping.” Another woman called to me “that girl was really moving. She was driving way too fast!” Other people in the group nodded their heads in agreement. A third person called “she hit so hard she pushed us into the van.”
I realized these people on the sidewalk were the drivers and passengers of the two other vehicles. They weren’t hurt, didn’t even appear shaken, and their vehicles suffered only minor dents to the bumpers. Yet, these people had merely stood around while Winnie, the other man and I had rendered assistance. These people didn’t even bother to check on a woman sitting in a wrecked car. I exchanged a few more comments, then Winnie and I drove off.
Last night I thought about the day’s events. I realized in many ways it was similar to an accident 18 months earlier in Mississippi. I had a sudden flashback to a Saturday afternoon in August 2005.
On that afternoon Winnie and I had an accident with our SUV. While driving along a main highway we rear-ended a larger van that had suddenly stopped in front of us. This van, either at the same time or as a result of our impact rear-ended a large SUV in front of them. The front end of my SUV was crumpled and could not be driven away. Despite the damage, the air bags didn’t open but Winnie and I were still shook up. The other two vehicles involved suffered only mildly dented bumpers.
In our accident, immediately after the impact, I jumped out and called out to the driver getting out of the van in front of us asking if they were all right. The driver, a woman, called back “Yes.” Without even asking our health status she yelled “You hit me so hard I was shoved into the car in front of me.” Then she went over to the other driver.
Until the police arrived, the only attention we received was from a passing motorist who witnessed the accident. The two other drivers hung together and chatted. They never even approached Winnie and I. The passing motorist helped move our SUV off the road and stayed around until the police took his statement. This motorist even made sure we had someone to give us a ride home before he left. After the police took statements from the other two drivers, they left without ever even looking at us.
Now I can’t help but wonder. In both accidents, did people ignore the person “causing” the accident because that person “deserved what they got?” Did people believe they had no obligation to render assistance because the driver “most responsible” for the accident inconvenienced them? Do people really think an accident victim deserves help or no help based on who was most at fault?
Just how many people in our country, the supposed greatest nation ever to exist on planet earth, can’t be bothered to show compassion for someone who’s in an accident?
What is wrong with this picture?