Monday, June 1, 2009

Exceptional driver

According to one survey 88% of respondents consider themselves to be above average drivers. I am an exception. This makes me an exceptional driver, right? As an exception it may mean that I don't suffer the same levels of self-deception as many people, or it may mean that my driving is so atrocious that no amount of delusion can mask it. However, I had thought that what I lack in skill I make up for with good judgement. This had kept me accident free for my entire life until Saturday, May 23, when a lapse of judgement combined with poor skills left my car totaled and someone's minivan badly damaged in the middle of north bound US75 between Park and Parker. (No injuries).

Tímea's piano teacher usually comes to the house, but he recently had a hip replacement (he's recovering nicely), so I was taking Timea to his house in McKinney on Saturday. We entered US 75 at the George H. Bush Turnpike, and I decided that I wanted to take the HOV lane. I was able to make it to the number 2 lane, but there was a large truck in the fast lane between myself and the HOV lane. I waited for the truck to pass before going over, but once the truck did so, I saw that I had only moments to get in the HOV lane before the entrance closed off. In an act of very poor judgement, I decided to go for it anyway. I missed.

I hit the first of the plastic posts separating the HOV lane from the rest of the traffic. I over-corrected for that and scrapped the concrete median divider. From there I over-corrected again and went into the plastic posts, over correcting again I hit the concrete barrier again after which I completely lost control of the car and went spinning into the main traffic where I went right into the driver's side of the minivan. It was at this point that Tímea, who'd been engrossed in her DS in the back seat, noticed that something was amiss. [Update: I have since been informed that she noticed there was a problem when I began swearing. Although I have no recollection of saying anything, I have no doubt that her report is accurate.]

After the impact I smelled and saw smoke from the dashboard. Only later did I realize that this was from the explosive charge used to deploy the airbag, instead I thought something was on fire. So I quickly got Timea and me out of the car and across two lanes of traffic to safety. The driver of the minivan had pulled off the road, and although the driver side door was smashed she said she was unhurt and asked about me and Tímea. She was also already calling the police.

A police car arrived almost immediately, and then the full emergency squad who gave Tímea and I the once over (Pulse, blood pressure). Everyone looking at the remains of our car was a bit surprised that we needed no medical treatment. The paramedics insisted on checking us out anyway. Mostly talking to us and taking our pulse and blood pressure. I must say that they have some pretty cool gear inside those vehicles. I was a bit shaky, and my glasses had been seriously bent out of shape by the airbag, but that was about it.

I am also pleased that I managed to hold my tongue when asked for what seemed like the tenth time to describe the accident. When asked whether I was wearing a seatbelt, I refrained from responding, "we'll I'm here talking to you aren't I?" Apparently for the official accident report there is a standard list of questions that the police ask. This included, "where you wearing a helmet?" When I asked the police officer to repeat the question, he did so and told me that they use the same set of questions for motorcycle accidents.

I had also been asked early on where I wanted the remains of the car towed. I had no idea, but said that there was a Subaru place on Plano Parkway. Later the same police officer told me that the Subaru dealership doesn't do body work and so wouldn't accept the vehicle, so I had to select some other destination. Having never needed body work before, I had no idea of what to do. I said to the officer, "you probably aren't allowed to recommend a place." This was indeed the case, but he very helpfully told me that the other vehicle was being towed to Caliber Collision Center right across the highway, and he pointed to a big sign in plain view.

Without going into the tedious part of the story, I would just like to say that I am extremely happy with the safety features on a 2005 Subaru Legacy, the performance of the Plano Police and Emergency Fire and Rescue Services, Caliber Collision Center, and particularly with GEICO Insurance. I would also like to thank the anonymous women whose vehicle I crashed into for her courtesy, concern and cool headedness.

The only people I'm miffed with (other than myself) would be the designers of this particular HOV lane. My complaint doesn't take away form my responsibility for my judgement error, but one is left with the feeling that this HOV lane is designed to fail. This is Texas and one of our leading industries would be hurt by real gasoline conservation. The other folks I'm annoyed at is Wells Fargo, my bank, for putting a long hold on the check from the insurance company.

Now from Tímea's point of view the excitement of the day was twelve hours after the accident when Molly (our larger dog) brought a possum into the house to play with. We at first thought it was dead, but true to its nature it was just playing, well, possum. After a confused scene (with me wearing oven mitts) of capturing it, it too seemed uninjured from the days events. I released it down by the creek.

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