Odometer Update: 311,475
I was starting to get pretty confident with my driving, with 240,000 miles accident free, and then I ran into a stop sign. My confidence is back down to where it should be, and I’m a little concerned with my fight or flight response. As I was skidding toward the stop sign – red jagged metal octagon headed toward my face – my reaction was something along the lines of, “UH..OH.” I think my mouth and eyes were wide open, as the windshield cracked. I don’t think you’re supposed to see the whole accident; I think you’re supposed to flinch, or put your arm up, or some sort of protective reflex. Not me, I just stared death dumbly in the face.
The police officer said, “You know you were really lucky, I’ve seen stop signs slice people in half.” First of all, really? Is that a thing? If stop signs are slicing people in half on the regular, how about we implement a safer material? Perhaps instead of a sharp jagged metal, maybe some sort of plastic polymer? Secondly, if that’s true, that I was lucky, it means that moment could have been the end of me. Which means I’ve experienced the moments right before death, and it’s a pretty dumb moment, just “Whoopsy!” I don’t even know if it was as much of a reaction of “Whoopsy” it was more of a blank moment of helplessness, when really I should have been putting my arm up.
What had happened was… a Beagle came trotting on to the road, and I hit the brakes, but the brakes didn’t work fast enough, so I swerved into the shoulder to avoid the little guy, where unfortunately, there was a layer of sand. I don’t know why there was sand on the shoulder, but it was essentially a layer of blonde beach sand, which sent me skidding an extra 20-30 feet past my initial projection.
Being a good Samaritan and Beagle life-preserver, I thought the cop would be pleased with my contribution to society: “Hey, good work saving that dog, too bad about your car and all that money you’re gonna have to spend on the deductible.” Instead he said, “Now, you know you’re at fault for this.” I was thinking, “Um, are you not seeing this layer of sand? I mean, honestly, what is sand doing here?” He continued, “It’s illegal to swerve out of your lane. In the future you have to just hit the dog.”
Is there really a law written that says, “you have to hit a dog”? He said even if it’s a deer, you have to brake in your own lane and hit the deer. Surely there’s a limit to what you’re legally not allowed to swerve from. What if it’s a rhinoceros, or pack of wolves? Am I allowed to swerve out of the way of a pile of explosives? I did some Googling and couldn’t find an answer on the specifics of the no-swerve law, so if there are any advanced driver’s ed nerds who want to take a crack at the legality, please hit me back with your findings.
I’m trying to learn from my mistakes and improve, but I’m not sure exactly what I can take from this. On the one hand, I now know not to swerve, but at the same time, I’ve successfully swerved from dozens of animals in the past, accident free. I understand that it’s possible that you could swerve and someone could die, but I also have eyeballs, and if there is a person or car anywhere in the shoulder, I would make a note of that before swerving. It’s not like I would just see a dog and swerve blindly off a cliff. But on the other hand, I didn’t notice the patch of sand, so I get how swerving can lead to bad scenarios.
I suppose the bigger lesson, is to appreciate life. Given that moment could have been it, it is amazing how fleeting life is. You’re driving down the highway listening to Adele, beagle, stop sign, the end. You wouldn’t think so, but a stop sign could kill you at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday near Lynchburg, VA. I do have an increased sense of appreciation, but at the same time the act of appreciating life is easier said than done. Do you wake up each morning and exclaim, “I’m so thankful to be alive!” Or do you call your parents more? Or do you do more of the things on your bucket list and slide further into debt? Is a persistent and gnawing feeling of “I could be dead right now” a positive or a negative? There is a fine line between feeling lucky to be alive and the paralyzing fear of death. There’s the one type of person who feels lucky to be alive so he goes sky-diving, and there’s the other type who feels the same way so he stays in bed all day wearing a helmet. I’d prefer not to sky-dive, or wear a bed helmet, which puts me right back to where I was before the accident, except with a new awareness of the no-swerve kill-the-dog law, and a new windshield.