I try not to think about this too often, but many years ago, I was in a car accident that wrecked the front passenger side of my car and caused serious injury to my right shoulder. The force of the impact briefly disoriented me and it took a couple of minutes for me to recover my bearings. When my head cleared, I realized that my car had been hit and I was stopped in the middle of a busy street. There were many witnesses to the accident. A number of people came to my aid and someone called 911 for emergency assistance.
Within a few minutes, the police and ambulance arrived. The paramedics checked me and the other driver for injuries, while the police assessed the accident scene. It was clear that the driver of the other car was at fault for the collision of our vehicles. He had driven in the wrong direction down a one-way street before attempting to make an illegal turn. When he pulled out into the street to turn, he drove right into the front passenger side of my car. My car couldn’t be driven because the front wheel was bent. A tow truck towed it to my dealership for repairs.
The driver of the other car was a teenager who shouldn’t have been driving alone after dark. The car belonged to his parents and he wasn’t insured to drive it. At the scene of the accident, the police laid multiple charges and fines against him. One of the fines was an immediate $5,000.00 because he was an uninsured driver. I know that the other fines and charges were also significant and I could see the fear growing in him as the police spoke to him while they waited for his parents to arrive at the scene.
Looking back at that night, it’s incredible that neither of us had injuries that were more critical. The more incredible thing – and the reason I try not to think about that accident – is that I saw the accident before it happened. I know what that sounds like but it’s true. I saw the accident unfold in slow motion before I felt the collision of the two cars. I still don’t know how to explain it because I clearly couldn’t change what I foresaw. I couldn’t steer myself out of the path of the other car. I couldn’t slam on my brakes and halt my forward movement. I couldn’t do anything to stop what I could see about to happen. How do I explain that?
Not being able to explain what I saw may have influenced some of the decisions I made later. I never spoke to that boy or his parents again after that night. I took the information I needed from the police for my insurance company and left the accident scene with my friend who came to pick me up. When I spoke to a representative from my insurance company the next morning and she asked if I wanted to sue the family for more damages beyond what my insurance would cover – all repairs to my car, all medical expenses, any lost wages –, I said no. I didn’t even need to think about it.
What I did think about was that I somehow knew the accident was going to happen before it did but I couldn’t stop it from happening. Maybe my car was the car that boy was supposed to hit that night. Maybe there was a reason why neither one of us wasn’t more seriously injured. Maybe there was a reason the accident happened just a few blocks away from my home before I got to the fast speeds of the highway. I don’t know. What I do know is the soreness in my shoulder was increasing, but all I kept thinking about was the look of fear on that boys face; and I felt that taking more money from him and his family on top the thousands they had to pay in fines wasn’t going to benefit me, or anyone else.
Looking back at that night now, maybe that accident happened to test us both. Was I not grateful enough for my life and all I had? Was I not patient enough? Did I need to give up trying to control what happened around me? Was I unable to live in the moment instead of always looking forward for what was to come next or looking back and reliving all that had already happened? What was that boy supposed to learn? Did either of us learn what we needed from that accident; or are we both still thinking about that night and wondering why it happened?