The Truth about Car Accidents:
What Driver's Ed Doesn't Tell You
By Kate, age 16, New Hampshire
Every sixteen and seventeen year old can't wait to get her license. With a license comes freedom - the ability to drive places and to dates without having mom or dad pick you up. With driving comes responsibility and risks. Sure, the instructors at driver's ed teach you all they can about safety and "what-if" scenarios. But you never know what it's really like until you experience it for yourself.
It's a proven fact that teens are at a higher risk to get into a car accident. This I'm sure you've learned as well in your short time through driver's ed. But what exactly is it like to be in one? And what do you do afterward? Car accidents are never what Hollywood makes them out to be, and it's one of those things you don't know too much about until you go through one yourself. So let me tell you my story. Hopefully, you'll get a better idea of what to expect.
The AccidentIt was October 31, 2007, the evening of Halloween. I had made plans with Cody, a good friend of mine, to spend the evening with him and his younger brother and sister for trick-or-treating. My dad let me use our Toyota 4-Runner, a good car, and I always liked driving it. So I drove myself to Cody's house and decided we would go to a nearby store to get Silly String.
Managing to snatch the last few cans, we headed back onto the road. It quickly grew dark, and I switched on my headlights and turned on my blinker to take a left turn. It was a busy main road, so naturally cars were speeding around every which way. I was in no rush and I patiently let other cars go since I would be cutting across oncoming traffic.
Others weren't so patient. A man in an SUV behind me was getting frustrated. He began to honk his horn at me and flash his lights. Couldn't he go around me like everyone else? Since he hadn't, I assumed he was taking the same turn I was. Didn't he see I couldn't go? Cody and I laughed at him and called him childish names, as every teen does. But as he became more and more frustrated, I kept my eye on him more and more, making sure that when I did go, he didn't get in my way and cause an accident.
Seeing a clearing in the traffic, I proceeded to go forward, as the man behind me sped forward, obviously in a rush. I watched as he sped beside me. Then in the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red. Glancing in front of me I saw a small red pickup truck.
I've heard that your brain kind of shuts down for a moment when something bad happens to you, so as to block out what's going on. Maybe that's what happened to me. I do remember the sounds, the one thing that seemed to come from a Hollywood movie. I don't remember what I heard first, but it involved tires squealing and a glass shattering crash, just like in the movies. The next thing I knew, I was on the road I had wanted to turn onto, but not in the way I had imagined.
The road had a small island in the middle which was where we had stopped. Panicked I immediately unbuckled my seat belt, and for some reason, I put on the emergency blinkers, obviously feeling a need to have them on. I then bolted out of the car as quickly as I could, not wanting to be in there for a second. I sprinted across the street and then collapsed on the grass, holding the pole of a stop sign as if for balance. My legs suddenly felt like Jell-O, and I knew I couldn't stand; they were shaking too badly.
Cody ran over to me and knelt by my side trying to calm me down, asking if I was alright. Tears poured out of my eyes. How could that have just happened? I didn't even do anything wrong! I held on to Cody tightly, as if he were about to leave me, and he hugged me back and comforted me. I can't imagine what it would have been like for me if he wasn't there.
I then remembered the other car and looked up to find it. About 50 yards away it was laying on its side. The sight of it made me scream. What if I killed him? I was so scared that I had. I didn't know what to do. The thought of it haunted me until I finally saw him crawl out of the window, seemingly unhurt. He proceeded to look the car over and then pulled his phone out for pictures. After making sure I was okay for the moment, Cody went over to talk to him.
It was then that I decided to look around, and I noticed that two young guys, maybe a few years older than me, had pulled over and were talking. I think they tried to talk to me, asking if I was okay and saying they called 911, but it was mostly a blur for me.
I then realized a man had approached me. He talked to me calmly and informed me that he was a cop on his way home from the gym and he saw everything. He began to ask me questions and informed me that help was on the way. All I could do was to nod, so that's what I did.
Soon enough, I heard sirens in the distance and watched as flashing lights sped down the busy road. Another cop approached me, this time with Cody by my side. He checked me over carefully, bending my limbs and asking for pain, but I felt nothing. Soon, fire trucks and ambulances arrived at the scene, and they put a neck brace around me as a precaution.
After making sure I was okay, they proceeded to take down my information, asking for my license, phone numbers, and vehicle information, all of which I provided quickly and smartly, despite my current state. I was still shaking everywhere. A phone call was made to Cody's parents, who came down to check on things.
It was then decided that I needed to be sent to a hospital, just to make sure everything was okay. They brought out a stretcher and I began to panic. "I'm fine, I'm fine," I said. I grabbed for Cody and begged for him to come with me. "My dad will drive me - we'll be right behind you," he said.
I was lifted onto the stretcher and into an awaiting ambulance. Inside a man was filling out more paperwork and proceeded to ask me more questions. He then asked me which hospital I wanted to go to. How should I know? I don't go to hospitals on a daily basis. A hospital's a hospital! This only made me more panicky.
Before long, I heard a few men outside shouting, and someone informed me that my parents were here. Cody later informed me that my mom had bolted out of the car and across the street to the site. They were brought to the ambulance and I begged my mom not to cry. It was the last thing I wanted to deal with, as I was really fine. At this point, I was slightly calmer too, and I didn't want to be pitied and cried over. I didn't want to have to deal with that.
I was then let out of the ambulance and told that if anything had hurt I should get it checked out. I looked around and noticed that firetrucks had started to leave, but both vehicles were gone, towed away.
After all the hustle and bustle, Cody, my parents, and I gathered in the car in search of the 4-Runner. After driving around cluelessly in the dark, we found the SUV. If you looked quickly, you wouldn't have even thought it was in an accident. The only damage was to the front of the car, and the left side was just about all smashed in. The front left tire also had come off, busted in some way.
We gathered the things that we kept inside the car and left it overnight where it would be taken to a garage. We then brought Cody home, and both of our parents talked in person for the first time that night. What a way to meet a friend's parents!
It doesn't end there. Well, the worst was over, but there were still things to take care of. The next day after school my mom and I went to the police station to get the police reports figured out. It's simple really. Each person involved in the accident just takes down the other's information. I happened to be there the same time as the guy I hit. Since I didn't actually get to talk to him at the site, I figured now was best to work things out between us. For all I knew, he could have wanted to sue!
He actually knew it was me when we asked for the same reports, and he introduced himself. Feeling as awful as I did, I couldn't stop apologizing, but he was very understanding. He was probably only in his twenties. He stated that the truck wasn't even his, and was only worth $500, so I guess it wasn't a big deal to him that it was totaled. That didn't change how terribly I felt about it though. But I knew it was over and done with and I moved on with my life.
We ended up getting some money for the car once it was officially classified as "totaled". With it, my parents immediately bought a new car, another Toyota 4-Runner, a 2008 model.
There are still days when I look back and wish the accident didn't happen. I actually still have the keys from it. But I've come to realize everyone has moments like that and everyone gets in car accidents. I was fortunate enough that no one was hurt, though I did have a sore back for quite some time which my doctor said could be from stress and whiplash. It still bothers me from time to time, but I'm very lucky it wasn't anything worse.
Getting into an accident, whether it's a fender bender or something worse than mine, is never fun, and it can be scary, especially if you don't know what to expect. Even if you do, it doesn't always make things better. But I think knowing about the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of people who have been in one can give you some idea how you might feel if it were ever to happen to you.
With the warmer weather fast approaching, all I can say is don't get out of control. With driving comes responsibility - don't abuse it! An accident is an accident, no matter how awesome they look in the movies.