I try to keep my blogging professional. These posts are supposed to be about analyzing great music, not about my personal problems. Every once in a while, however, something so extraordinary happens that I feel the need to blog about it – even if it's not musical, and even if it's only to make me feel better. Last week, I experienced such an incident: the second car accident of my life.
Now, I'm an extremely safe driver. Some people, including my wife, say I'm overly cautious. When we're travelling together, she's typically behind the wheel because my snail's pace drives her crazy. And yeah, I see her point. But when you drive as much as I do (I drove 24,000 miles in 2016 – and that was just for business), and since accidents are potentially physically and financially devastating, I'm not sure it's possible to be overly cautious when operating a vehicle.
There's a scene in Jurassic Park 3 that comes to mind. Amanda Kirby (actress Tea Leoni) discusses their missing son with her ex-husband Paul Kirby (William H. Macy):
PAUL: It was just a crazy accident. The exact same thing could have happened if he was with me. You can't go beating yourself up about it.
AMANDA: This wouldn't happen if he was with you. I mean, you drive five miles below the speed limit.
And that's how I drive! My trusty Nissan versa gets 50mpg when I drive 55mph. So I'll often drive 55mph, even when the limit is 60. If the limit is 70, I might increase to 60, but sometimes I still go 55. Sometimes I've even turned on my hazard blinkers to warn other drivers when that's the case. (The other drivers are usually a lot less grouchy when I have those lights on.)
So given my uber-conservative driving style, I wasn't surprised when my first-ever accident happened when a guy backed into me in a parking lot. If you have to be in a car accident, that one to be in. I was on my way out of the lot while he was backing out of a space. Rather than wait for me to pass, he pulled out and his rear left bumper collided with my right rear bumper. He claimed he never saw me, but I suspect he never even looked cuz I was RIGHT THERE. Plus, I was driving my parents' minivan – a vehicle about twice the size of my little versa. How do you miss a minivan that's only a few feet directly behind you? Anyway, we settled the matter privately with him paying for the repairs.
Then last Thursday, I was in a very similar – but much more costly - incident. I was driving north on Highway 137 (aka Sheridan Rd), one of the main roads in Beach Park, IL. The guy in front of me, Thomas, missed his turn and so stopped in the middle of the highway. Being behind him, I stopped, too. Then, instead of turning around, Thomas threw his truck in reverse. Seeing the impending accident, I laid into my horn. When he kept coming, I tried to quickly reverse, but I wasn't fast enough and he plowed into the front of my poor versa, totaling the car.
When officers arrived and asked for our stories of what happened, Thomas claimed that he had been stationary and I rear-ended him. I'll never know if he sincerely believed that, or if he was just trying to get out of having to pay my repair expenses. Either way, it worked. The officers issued me a $120 citation for “FAILURE TO REDUCE SPEED”, even though I was stationary at the time of impact.
I called the insurance company seeking advice and an agent suggested there might be witnesses or security cameras that could have filmed the whole thing. “The police have to pursue that,” she told me. “It's not the responsibility of insurance – we go by whatever's in the police report.”
So I walked over to the officer and pointed out that the car dealership across the street had several cameras. Plus, I laid into my horn for several seconds before impact. It's likely that the noise attracted attention, so there might be witnesses. But he refused to look into it. “That,” he told me, obviously annoyed by my suggestion, “is the responsibility of the insurance company – not law enforcement.” He informed me I had six weeks to pay the ticket, then went on his way.
Stuck between two authorities' advice, and with nothing to lose, I walked over to the dealership and asked if they had any witnesses or video. “Yeah, I saw the whole thing as it happened,” said one employee. “I don't know what that guy was thinking - he just backed right into you. Let's go check if our cameras caught it.” We walked to the security room, he pulled up the footage, and we watched as I unmistakably came to a complete stop, then Thomas backed into me. It was about as clear as it could be. I made a brief video of the footage, holding my phone up to the monitor.
Thank goodness the camera caught it, or I'd be on the hook even though I did nothing wrong! Even my mother, who worked as an insurance adjuster before I was born, admitted, "If I had to surmise what happened without that video, I'd say that you rear-ended him. It's just too unbelievable that someone would back up on a highway like that." And yet that's exactly what happened...
Now I have to submit the footage to the insurance company for subrogation, and to the Lake County Sheriff to contest the ticket. Argh! This is not how I wanted to spend my week.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.