Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Finally Happened

with 2 comments

It finally happened. My luck ran out. After an untold tens-of-thousands of miles commuting to and from work without an accident, my new Subaru got its bumper smashed yesterday. The first three days of this week were a mighty challenge of winter driving. On my way home on Monday, a car directly in front of me on the interstate started fishtailing on the slippery surface. While I coaxed my vehicle to a stop, I watched him spin sideways and bump the concrete barrier with the front of his car.

If I had been unable to stop, I would have t-boned his car right on the driver’s side door. I figured it was sheer luck that the car behind me was able to stop in time, as well. The guy in front of me backed his car up and turned back into our lane and we all resumed forward progress and proceeded on our way, traveling just a tad slower than before.

When the impact occurred yesterday afternoon, I felt no sense of shock. It was more shocking to me that an accident hadn’t already happened in any number of occasions when risk was high over the years. This one just proved to verify what I figured was inevitable. If I am going to spend as many hours driving in traffic as I do, then my odds of an eventual collision climb with each passing trip.

The sad irony of yesterday’s accident is that the recent precipitation had ended and roads were cleaner than they had been for days. Visibility was clear, which was a big bonus. Two of my trips in prior days involved precipitation that would freeze on contact with my windshield.

Although the roads were cleaner, they weren’t yet 100% clear. Some lanes and shoulders remained snow-covered. On my short side route to drop off a delivery to one of our customers, I witnessed two different snowplows working to clear ramps and a side road to the fullest extent.

As I navigated back toward access to the interstate, I came around a bend where the right turn lane goes downhill a bit before rising into the turn. It is an intersection with France Avenue, which is a busy main artery. It is not uncommon to meet with a backup of cars at this right turn lane while waiting for the long light which favors the primary avenue.

If there is a chance to make that corner before cross traffic resumes, it pays not to dawdle.

img_ip1879eYesterday, anyone making that blind approach around a corner into the downhill turn lane with too much momentum was doomed. The surface was an incredibly frictionless glazed slurry of salty, sleety slush. Go ahead and read that out loud three times fast. In the time it takes you to do that, several car bumpers will have crunched.

In my case, I spotted the vehicle in front of me struggling with loss of grip and immediately began working my car to a stop without hitting anyone. My Crosstrek came to rest at a 45° angle to the lane. I barely had time to gloat over my deft maneuvering before the car behind me made solid impact.

After moving to a spot beside the turn lane, I waited for police protection to give me a chance to remove a dangling piece of plastic and bend metal away from rubbing my tire. I was still way too close to the zone where cars continued to lose control. While waiting, I witnessed (or heard the sound of) 5 additional collisions.

Every time cross traffic forced turning vehicles to wait, a collision was imminent. It was a hard thing to watch.

The police unit that eventually arrived was followed immediately by a salt and sand truck.

While the officer tended to two cars uphill from me which looked to be tangled after impact, I jumped out and worked on my damage. When he tried to walk toward my car to check on me, it was too slippery for him to step, so he skated his way across the gap.

Hearing that I had already exchanged information with the other driver in my collision, he gladly sent me on my way. I was very happy to get out of that danger zone and back on the more manageable dangers of the interstate. With my nerves on edge, I drove home as safely as possible.

Part of me felt a fear I would go from zero accidents, to two in one day if I wasn’t extremely careful.












Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2017 at 7:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Sorry to read about your accident, John. Damage does not look too bad — and the best thing, no personal injuries! Is Wisconsin a “no fault” state?


    January 12, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    • Thanks, Ward. No, Wisconsin operates under a tort system. However, the accident happened in Bloomington, MN. Wonder if that complicates things.


      January 12, 2017 at 11:13 pm

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