Dammit

A funny thing happened on the way to Offroad Consulting’s 201 class. I scouted the route from home to Rausch Off Road Park two weekends ago. Lots of windy roads. Went there for the 101 class last week. This morning I was involved in an accident heading there for the 201 class. I’m a very careful driver, having only been in two accidents in my lifetime. Before today.

Germany

I was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany in 1982 when I bought my first new car, a VW GTi. I was nearing the end of my 6 year enlistment and it was the US Army’s policy to ship your car back to the US at the end of your term. I knew I wanted a GTi, and during the time lots of my buddies were buying BMWs and Benzes. I had an accident so that car never made it to the US.

I hated being cooped up in the barracks so I always went out on weekends, usually exploring back roads in the Schweinfurt area. One beautiful weekend I was driving around a corner and of a sudden I lost control. The GTi spun around and hit a farm tractor. The Polezi ended up citing the farmer for driving his tractor off the farm and onto a portion of the road that was off limits to farm vehicles. Apparently he tracked a lot of mud on the road and that caused my GTi to lose grip.

I was 21 at the time and luckily the farmer’s insurance paid for all the damage. I ended up going back to New York City, and not needing or wanting a car for some years.

Delaware

Fast forward to 2015 and I’m merging my Honda 2014 CR-V onto the New Jersey Turnpike. I’m heading towards Nyack New York to meet some friends for a bicycle ride and a picnic. I remember traffic was crawling, like 1-2 mph. I’m merging into the turnpike, with plenty of space, and some moron speeds up and cuts me off. I’m already half way into the right lane. He decided to keep going and he dinged my fender.

I yelled at the idiot to stop but he wouldn’t. Two of the lanes were closed due to construction, and there were some police cars on the closed lanes. So I pulled over and got the attention of a trooper told him what just happened, and he calmly walked over to the fleeing driver and had him pull over.

I don’t mean to make light of the situation, but it was the slowest car chase ever. We were on foot and the idiot was barreling along at 1-2 mph hoping to get away. The guy finally pulled over and the next thing I know the guy is in handcuffs.

The police officer told me he was citing the driver for (1) driving while smoking pot, (2) being in possession of a controlled substance, (3) driving with a suspended license, and (4) trying to flee the scene of the accident. It was almost like a Wiley Coyote vs Roadrunner scene but in slow motion. I have a video.

Today

So this brings us to today. What happened?

Well I’m driving along beautiful roads and all of a sudden I hear a loud impact, and I remember the Jeep doing a 360 spin. The tires sounded like a movie chase scene. The impact seemed muffled, almost subdued. The Airbags did not deploy, and I didn’t expect them to. There was no broken glass, and the GoPro suction cup mount didn’t come off the windshield. It was surreal.

When the Jeep stopped spinning it was precisely on the middle of the intersection, and pointing in the same direction I was heading in. There was a doughnut shaped set of tire tracks showing the Jeep did a 360. I put the flashers on, and ran to the other car that was in a ditch, leaving my car in the middle of the intersection.

When I got to the car I saw that the drivers door was caved in about 6” and the glass was shattered. I saw the driver’s arm, it was a little bloody from the glass, but moving. I asked the driver if he was ok and I started to grab the door, he told me in a somewhat relaxed voice “you won’t be able to open the door”.

They must not make cars like they used to. I put my right foot up against the car, gave it everything I had and yanked the door wide open. For a moment I felt like the Hulk. I felt something pop in my left hand, i guess I’ll know tomorrow if I broke it.

Once everyone was out of the other car and reported that they were ok, I offered the driver and passengers water, they all declined then went to my Jeep and grabbed the GoPro to see if I could figure out what happened. After reviewing the video clips I realized I drove right past the stop sign. I’m not sure how I could have missed it.

I let the driver and his passengers know the accident was my fault. When the police arrived I quickly informed them as well. The officer was courteous and professional, I could sense hesitation when the officer told me there was no choice but to cite me for (1) careless driving and (2) driving through a stop sign.

Without hesitation I told the officer I deserved both I’m a firm believer in accountability. Seemed like the officer never experienced this level of full transparency, the officer looked a bit shocked at how I responded.

The officer called a truck to have both vehicles towed to a lot. I called Geico to report the accident. Confirmed I’m fully covered, I asked the driver to take a photo of my drivers license, then I got called over by the officer for some questions. Didn’t get the chance to ask the driver for his license and insurance info. Geico told me not to worry since their insurance would contact Geico anyway.

I’m staying in an area hotel tonight. They had someone pick me up. Tomorrow I’ll call Geico and Jeff Daniel’s Jeeps to see if they can handle the repairs. If so I’ll have the Jeep towed to his shop. Then the adjuster can look at the car and work can begin, or the car can be written off as a total loss, since the frame is broken in front. If not. Geico will ask my local Jeep dealer for a recommendation.

The last eight hours have been quite the experience. In the time that it took me to type this blog post on my iPhone, I realize I can’t grab anything with my left hand. I’ll find out tomorrow if its broken.