Thursday, August 16, 2018

Car Crash

So we had a car crash last Saturday. I haven't mentioned it till now because i wasn't sure if I should, I mean, it's not good news, is it? But then I thought, well, this is a blog, so I really should blog it, if only for my own recollection later on. So here's what happened.

We were driving along on Saturday afternoon at about 70 kph on two-lane main road. The speed limit is 80 kph and we're driving at a sensible distance from the car in front (in hindsight, maybe that sensible distance was part of the problem. If we'd been tailgating the car in front, the accident mightn't have happened ... but another one might). So anyway, my wife is behind the wheel, her dad, Jim, who's 97, is in the front passenger seat, and I'm in the back.

As we approach a junction, a sort of crossroads, we see a Mercedes waiting in the other lane of the main road to turn across our lane into a side road. The car in front of us (remember that sensible distance?) passes the turning, and then the Mercedes starts moving, turning to cross our lane. I remember sitting up, eyes wide, incredulous that he's actually going to drive in front of a speeding car - our speeding car - and knowing that the rules of physics mean there's no way on earth we're not going to hit him if he does. But he does, and he's not even in a hurry. He takes a leisurely turn across our lane, the side of his car rushing towards us, filling the windscreen. We brake. We jerk forwards - all stopped by seat belts - and then wham! My eyes close, and when they open it's to see both air bags deployed, my wife and father in law disorientated and smoke rising from the dashboard and steering wheel from which the airbags have burst. But we're all alive. I have no pain, I'm just disorientated. The horn is jammed on, blaring in a long scream as I and my wife get out. We go around to the passenger side and she checks on Jim. He seems okay, no blood, no obvious injuries. She's tending to him, so I go and try to shut off the horn, which is still blaring. I can't shut it off. The engine is off but it makes no difference. I wrestle with the airbag that's burst from the steering wheel and it kind of cuts in and out as I do - which is almost worse than constant blaring - but ultimately it won't give up, so I do.

The other driver is pacing around beside his car. He comes up to my wife and tells her he's only had his car for three weeks. He asks me if everyone is okay and I say yes, are you? He says yes. Then another guy, a passing driver who's stopped at the scene, comes up and tries to help shut off the horn. On seeing he can't, he goes to his car and returns with some pliers. He pops the bonnet and disconnects the battery. I feel inept and curse myself for not having any tools in the car. I don't even have a mobile phone on me. But then I remember I have a breakdown kit that I've never had a use for in fifteen years, so I go and get that. It has some reflective triangles in it and some replacement bulbs. Oh well, it's something. As my wife calls emergency services, I place the triangles on the road in front of and behind the crashed cars. I see the guy who shut off the horn is now directing traffic like a pro. He has a faded fluorescent waistcoat thing that's seen a lot of use, so maybe he's a construction worker and directs traffic as part of his job, I don't know, I didn't ask him, but he was a great man to have around at the time.

Another great person to have around at the time was Marion, another passing motorist who has stopped at the scene to help out. She used to be a nurse and she's talking to Jim, chatting to him about this and that, but at the same time assessing his condition. Then the police arrive. Two male cops. They take over traffic directing duty from the fluorescent top guy, and he so he wishes us well and goes on his way. We both thanked him, and my wife asked him his name. He said he was John, and then he was gone, like some kind of Lone Ranger whose work there was done.

The police take both our and the other driver's details. They don't breathalyse either driver, nor do they take a statement. I thought this was odd, so I asked why not. I was told they only do it in the event of serious injury or a case of bad driving. Bad driving? But surely this is a case of bad driving?? Unhappy with the lack of official investigation, I take my wife's phone and start taking pictures of the scene, otherwise it's just going to be our word against the other driver's in the event that he doesn't accept responsibility.

Then the ambulance arrives and they take Jim on board and check him out. He has some heart rhythm irregularities so they take him away to hospital. Marion goes and we thank her. Turns out she's met Jim in the past. She's actually related to him, and so my wife, and so me, by marriage somewhere in the mix. Small world, eh?

Then the tow truck arrives and our car is loaded up and taken away. My wife's sister has arrived and she gives us a lift back to Jim's house. She gets some things for him in case they keep him in hospital overnight, and goes. Then my brother in law gives a lift back home.

And that's it. In the end, neither me nor my wife were injured; Jim was given a battery of tests and found to be okay, though his chest still aches a bit a few days later. Maybe from the seat belt, maybe the air bag, I don't know, I'm not a doctor. But it's nothing life threatening. We're all okay.

Being a weekend, there was nothing we could do with the insurance company until Monday. They told us the other guy isn't accepting responsibility so it's our word against his. We sent in the photos and within thirty minutes his insurance company accepted liability. So that was a relief. Our car is a write off. We still don't know what we're going to get for it, but probably not much; it was a 2006 model, and once cars get over ten years old, insurers take a dim view of them here.

I'm p*ssed off, obviously, but also greatly relieved that no one was hurt. And I'm grateful to everyone who helped out, especially to John and Marion, who had no obligation whatsoever to do so. I hope if ever I'm in the situation that I pass an accident I might be able to stop and be half as helpful as they were ... Note to self: get some pliers!

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