Sunday, December 10, 2006

Reflections on my own arrogance

Until 2 PM today, Sunday, my weekend was going as well as a good weekend does. In fact, even better than most. And so was Liam’s.

But two events moved us from head-banging to the Red Hot Chili Peppers as we drove from the ‘burbs back to the city, to unsettled and introspective.

The first event that prompted reflection, we fortunately missed by an hour: a car accident that left a single vehicle wrapped around a power standard. The driver was probably fine enough, but if there had been a passenger… the sight of the car made us both feel sad to the point of nauseous, hoping the driver had been alone.

Fewer than two kilometers and five minutes later, we actually witnessed a car accident. A small sedan pulled off of a side street into the lane of quick moving traffic that we were in. At the same instant, a huge black Toyota truck switched lanes right in front of us. I stopped in time. But the other two vehicles connected. The truck rammed the driver square-on. Every other car managed to avoid hitting, or being hit by, either the truck which did a 90 turn and flew into the median, or the sedan which spun to a stop in the middle of the two lane street.

Smoke started to pour out from under the hood of the sedan. Several people jumped from their vehicles to assist the driver of that car. Cell phones were flipped open. The horn was engaged (I didn’t look to see if it was the driver resting on the steering wheel or not… too much information for me).

Since I wasn’t looking at the sedan carnage, I watched as the truck took off down a back alley at “get me the hell out of here” speed. I was perfectly positioned to follow it, hoping to grab the license plate number. The neighbourhood we were in, just seven blocks from my house, has a big park that was filled with kids playing soccer – meaning kids and parents on or near the road as well. I had no way to see the license plate since I was watching the road, but Liam managed to get the first four digits before I pulled over to call the police and let them know the direction the truck was heading.

Given how many hundreds of hours I spend in my car every year, I’m surprised that this is the first accident I’ve actually witnessed. According to ICBC, 459 people were killed and 78,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes on BC roads in 2005. On a typical day last year, there were 695 motor vehicles crashes; 215 people were injured in these crashes (including four cyclists and six pedestrians every day); and at least one person died. This means that there was one car crash approximately every two minutes of every day, and someone was injured almost every seven minutes.

And a good handful of accidents that have contributed to the stats have been very close to home: four kids at Liam’s old daycare were hospitalized three weeks ago after a car went off the road and drove into the playground. Six months ago, my scotch-drinking buddy, Alan was hit while riding his motorcycle (not his fault and he's selling his bike now). A year ago Alan’s wife was driving home from work and was hit by a truck running a red light. Two years ago our neighbour and his then 2-year-old son were thrown from the crosswalk by a car on Christmas Eve (the child bounced and recovered quickly, the dad was off work and in a leg cast for several months). And the car that I drive was actually responsible for an accident a few years ago (I was at work when it happened).

I know that the roads are dangerous. I know that the situation on the road can change in the matter of a split second of looking down to change the radio station. But I drive with the arrogance of someone who has never been in a car accident, still believing at some level that it will never happen to me.

Seeing the collision today makes me reflect: I was one second from being part of that accident. Was it luck that my car is intact outside my house and that Liam and are drinking hot chocolate on the couch and not in an emergency room? Or can I assert that I avoided being part of the accident because I was aware of my surroundings and slowed down, anticipating potential danger when I saw the sedan pulling forward? I recognize the arrogance, but I'm not sure how to overcome it... and I guess it's a potentially dangerous arrogance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i sincerely hope they catch the shithead who tried to run after hitting. bravo to liam who caught part of the license plate number.

i have come within 10 centimetres of hitting someone, through no fault of my own, and was left shaking and cursing at the stupidity of the jaywalker on the busy freeway who almost made me responsible for his death.

i actually had to speed up, on a split-second decision, so i could be travelling fast enough to avoid hitting him. any slower, and he'd be crow-bait.

i've seen too many accidents and had too many close calls to continue to believe i am inherently less likely to be involved in a road accident that kills someone. it's luck and careful driving that keep me clear, and one day one of these *might* fail.

tough nuts indeed.

December 11, 2006  
Blogger no said...

i had some schoolin' in arrogance a couple of months ago in my car.

my partner and i and our year old baby were heading out of granville island heading east on 4th or 2nd or 6th or whatever it is at that point towards the turn that eventually takes you over the granville bridge. a similar "big black truck" was having some issues with patience and accelerated around the person behind us, squealing his tires, getting far enough ahead to pull directly in front of us forcing me to slam on my brakes.

my automatic reflex to flip him the bird kicked in, he took offence, slammed on his breaks, i rear ended him. he sped off squealing, up and around the corner, witnesses said he tried to turn off on to what he thought was a side street but was a parking garage, he backed up into the middle of the street again, narrowly missing an oncoming bus and then sped off over the bridge.

i haven't flipped the bird since and always cringe at the thought of him hitting someone as he sped away. i would have figured that in some way it would have been my fault.

my solace in it all was that my grill swallowed his expensive looking solid steel skull accessory that looks like it was wired to light up when he put on his brakes.

thank goodness yer both safe

December 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just another tricky day..for you ?

December 17, 2006  
Blogger Geoffrey Milder said...

I know that the holiday season is full of activity and business, but is this blog dead?


December 22, 2006  
Blogger Donna said...

sorry, G. No, not dead. I've got two days without work and nobody to spend Xmas eve or morning with, so I'll work on a new entry while you're all opening gifts! Ho ho ho Humbug!!

December 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same boat !

December 23, 2006  
Blogger Geoffrey Milder said...

Donna! You're alive! (I'd wondered whether we'd lost you). I'm sorry to hear that you won't have company over Christmas. In some respects this may be a blessing. I'm anticipating my cousin saying something thoughtless and socially reprehensible over the dinner table, at that point my evening will be ruined. At least you'll only have your self to offend. Big hugs and much love to you over the coming days. I look forward to reading whatever you're able to compose in that time.

Best wishes.


December 24, 2006  

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