Car accident (not me or my car!)

September 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Yesterday afternoon I was driving home from Kent on the way to pick up Blake from work. The roads were wet since it had been raining lightly all day, but it was nothing treacherous or unusual. Traffic was dense but moving at the speed limit. All of a sudden, a semi truck about 50 feet in front of me started changing lanes and I thought, “Gee, he’s moving over really quickly!” An instant later it became apparent that he was out of control! The truck slipped sideways (perpendicular to the direction of traffic) and slammed into a Camry, pushing it over a couple lanes and eventually into a Jetta which was then smushed into the concrete median separating the north and southbound lanes of traffic. As the truck slid, it jack-knifed and spun, and when it stopped it was jutting across almost all of the northbound lanes.

I squeezed by in the single remaining northbound lane and could see that the two hit cars were damaged, so I pulled over onto the shoulder to see if anybody needed help. When the two cars collected themselves, they were both able to drive over to the shoulder as well along with a fourth car who had been behind me. When I got out of my car, the truck looked like this:

Thr truck right after the accident

How the truck looked immediately after the accident (though I took this photo several minutes later). My car in the foreground.

I walked up to the two cars, and both of the drivers said they were unhurt. The other car who stopped but wasn’t hit was a 60-ish year old woman whose sister was driving the Camry (which sustained the most damage) and they were driving up from Oregon in two cars. They were pretty shaken up but otherwise calm. The driver of the Jetta was in her early twenties and didn’t seem particularly flustered. As it started sprinkling again, we stood in a little huddle recounting what had happened and being incredulous and happy that nobody was hurt. We had all stopped a hundred or so feet in front of the truck, and since it seemed unlikely that its driver was harmed, none of us had gone over to see it.

The truck up close

The truck up close

A minute or so later, while we were in our (now pretty calm) circle, the truck driver came over in a frenzy of yelling and defensiveness and blame-placing. He had a thick African accent (I think it was African — he sounded like someone I knew from Nigeria). “Did you see the guy? That guy just came over into my lane and I had to swerve! He just came right over! There was nothing I could do! Did you see him? It wasn’t my fault! I was driving and he just came over! Did you see him?” We all said we hadn’t seen the guy, and we were more than a little daunted by his yelling and anger and the wild arm-waving when he spoke. After a short time he went back to his truck and we didn’t really see him again. After he was gone we all agreed that he was probably telling the truth — none of us had been in a position to see somebody coming into his lane from the right.

The cars on the shoulder

After a few minutes, the other three cars backed up so we were all pretty near the truck in a neat line. The Camry's side mirrors were gone, so the backing up actually took her a few minutes.

About that time I said, “We should probably call the police.” The other three women had all thought that someone else had called them, and eventually it came out that immediately following the accident a random driver had pulled over near one of them and said, “the police are on their way” before zooming off. So we waited, and a little bit later we heard sirens and then a few cop cars and an ambulance rolled up.

Emergency vehicles

At this point you may be wondering why I was still around since I hadn’t been hit and nobody was hurt. Well, the only other non-hit car was the sister of the Camry driver, and she would clearly not be the most objective witness. Since I had actually seen the action up close, I hung around in case anybody wanted to hear my account of the events.

The cops talked to the truck driver first while the EMTs made sure everybody was okay. Here the Jetta driver announced that “[her] back kind of hurts” despite telling us that she was fine a few minutes earlier, which led me to wonder if she had just realized the sort of opportunity that had presented itself. The EMTs sat her down on the driver’s seat of her Jetta and then they and a bunch of cops stood around her in a big circle and, as far as I could tell, talked. This went on for 10-15 minutes and I started wondering if that might have had something to do with her notable youth and attractiveness. (Gosh, I’m a cynic!)

Empty highway

The view northbound. You can see the EMTs' stuff sitting on the ground next to the Jetta on the right.

(The Jetta driver seemed perfectly nice, and I didn’t really see much of what happened to her car in the accident. So perhaps she really was injured. I have no idea.) It was beginning to rain harder and I was going to be late to pick up Blake (and I had to go to the bathroom!), so I approached a cop and said I was a witness. He got my name and contact info and sent me happily on my way. I also gave my info to the Jetta and Camry drivers, so maybe I’ll be able to help if there are any facts in dispute. The truck driver was kind of scary and so I didn’t go tell him my info, but I’m sure the cops can contact me if necessary.

Conveniently, having four lanes blocked during rush hour for twenty minutes resulted in a full clearing-out of the interstate heading into Seattle (north of the accident). So I got on the highway and zoomed into town at full speed. Amazingly, I was actually only five minutes late to pick up Blake despite waiting at the side of the road for almost a half hour. Interstates are so fast when there are no other cars on them!

So all in all everything turned out mostly fine. It was pretty scary seeing that semi just slide around like that, though — I’ve been thanking my lucky stars since then that I wasn’t going a teeny bit faster, or I might have been the one next to that truck. I probably wouldn’t have been hurt either, but dealing with it certainly would have been a giant headache. Phew!

PS – Here’s another puppy video! Pico butts Nano (Youtube)

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