Accident Prone

Our household currently has 3 drivers under the age of 25. Inexperienced drivers and accidents seem to go together. My daughters have had a few accidents. The accidents range from breaking the back window to totaling the car. I am grateful to God that the injuries have mostly been minor. I was feeling a little superior about my driving when I was their age, but then I started thinking about my own inexperienced driving.

One memorable experience was the time my dad taught me to drive a car with a manual transmission one day and the next day sent me in that car to my grandparents’ house several hours away. Being new to a manual transmission was bad enough, but that car’s transmission had troubles. I was forced to drive most of the way in 2nd gear. When I was going through King’s Mountain, NC,  I met another car full of teen guys. When they started honking and waving at me, I was so nervous about driving that car with the failing transmission that I assumed they were trying to tell me something was wrong with my car.

I’d like to forget the time when another driver turned left in front of me resulting in a crash more serious than most of my daughters’ accidents. So serious that my passenger spent several days in a coma. And I wouldn’t mind forgetting the time I was driving my dad’s truck when the truck hydroplaned and the truck spun and hit the guardrail. The truck was still drivable, but it had scrapes that added to its character.

Can an auto accident ever be funny? Maybe.

My aunt Diane’s house is on top of a hill. Her front yard slopes for a ways from the house, then there is a steep drop off to the road. The edge of her yard next to the driveway has a row of pine trees. Because her driveway is fairly steep, my dad always wanted me to put the car into 1st gear, even the cars with automatic transmissions.

One day my brother Bruce and I went to Diane and Ronnie’s house. I don’t remember why we were going there, but I do remember what happened once we arrived. I parked the car. My brother and I got out of the car and started walking towards Diane’s house.

Suddenly I heard Bruce laughing as if he had seen the funniest thing ever in his life. What was so funny to a little kid? It was the car, the car that was heading across the sloping yard toward the road. For a nanosecond, I thought about doing a movie style run to the car. I would catch up with the car, yank the door open, and apply the brakes. But the car picked up momentum and was obviously traveling faster than I could run. I envisioned the car landing vertically on the road below. I hoped it wouldn’t land on a passing car, but I could imagine it crumpled on the road below.

Then its course changed. The driverless car headed for the row of pine trees that stood at the edge of the yard above the steep driveway. Since the trees were right next to the driveway, they had less root support on the driveway side. We watched as the car rammed into one of the trees. When the car hit the tree, the momentum of the car pushed the tree over. The car shimmied down the tree and came to a stop straddling the tree. Now my aunt and uncle’s driveway was completely blocked by a pine tree across it. A fallen tree would have been an easy fix, but a tree with a car perched on it was a greater challenge. I’m sure if digital photography and the Internet had been around then, the picture of the tree and car would be on all the crazy accident sites.

So why did my car suddenly decide to roll away? Muscle memory. Whenever I parked that automatic, I would push the gear lever up 2 clicks, and the transmission would be in Park. However, because I had put the car into 1st gear when I went up the driveway even though dad wasn’t there to see it, 2 clicks put the car into Neutral. And I didn’t set the parking brake.

My uncle Ronnie and some of his pals cut the tree so they could get the car off the tree. The car wasn’t too much worse for the experience. We were able to drive it away later that evening. There was no hope to restore the tree. It became firewood.

Have you ever had an accident that is humorous in retrospect?