This afternoon as I was returning home from grocery shopping, I encountered a horrific accident on the parkway that connects the town I live in from the town north of me. In the southbound lane, which I was in, the parkway has two lanes. In the northbound lane it has one. However, at some point the road curves and for the rest of the ride into my town, the southbound is one lane and the northbound is two lanes.
I was coming to the point where the southbound narrows into one lane and the northbound side was two lanes. About 1000 yards from the place where it narrows into one lane, traffic stopped. There were too many cars to be congestion or people having problems merging into one lane and it never backs up there—even during rush hour.
When a minute turned into five, I came to the belief there was an accident up ahead. How far up ahead I wasn’t sure. Under normal conditions, I was maybe 40 minutes from home, so I called my husband to tell him I was going to be late.
It was raining very hard. I had my windshield wipers on the fastest setting. Suddenly traffic was moving and up ahead I saw the familiar site of lights above a police car and an ambulance. When my car approached the point where the lane narrows to one, a police officer walked in front of my car. He didn’t have to signal to me. I knew to stop.
To my left was a police tow truck, two police cars and emergency service people and police officers mingling. Then the EMS and police cleared and I saw what had happened. It was a pretty bad accident.
Judging from the position of the vehicles—both in relation to the road and each other—I concluded the following had occurred:
The small car, thinking maybe a Mitsubishi, weaved into oncoming traffic and tried swerving back in. I don’t think the driver intended to swerve (vs. using that lane to pass the vehicle in front of him) because on the northbound side, they had two lanes, vs. my side—southbound—which had only one). Apart from it being two lanes, visibility wasn’t great. I had been using my windshield wipers on the fastest setting. It was raining incredibly hard! I doubt the driver was trying to do anything nuts in the rain.
I’m guessing as he swerved back in his lane, he lost control of his vehicle and slammed in back of the vehicle in front of him.
Unfortunately for the Mitsubishi driver, the vehicle in front of him was an 18-wheeler. It jackknifed and the Mitsubishi was an accordion. Judging from the condition of the Mitsubishi, I concluded there was no chance in hell the driver survived.
I was still on the phone with my husband, telling him everything I was seeing. He concluded the same thing—that the driver lost control trying to get back in his lane.
Traffic was backed up for at least half a mile on both sides by this point. As I drove past the accident, the ambulance was just closing its doors. It didn’t turn on its siren, but had its lights on. I am pretty sure this means no rushing needed to get to a hospital.
Not the Way to be Reminded How Precious Life Is
I wept on the way home. People routinely take driving for granted. I see it all the time on the road, and it’s not just young people who don’t realize they can die. Most of us do it. Some think of it as completely mechanical. Don’t. In an instant any one of us can die. Slow down, and pay close attention.
This poor driver is gone; his family will be notified and their lives won’t ever be the same again. Meantime, the truck driver, tho I don’t believe he was at fault, will likely be filled with guilt for a long time to come—I know I would be.
Stop and think about what you’re doing when you’re driving. This is not the way to be reminded how precious life is. Life can change in an instant. This isn’t about whether you pray to God / G*D / Allah / Buddha / the multiple gods of Hindu or you’re an atheist. In that instant, it’s about being aware and careful. It’s not about faith but about common sense. Accidents—even fatal ones—happen to both religious people and atheists.
We have one life. Don’t lose it over a text, a conversation, impatience, distraction, misjudging / miscalculation, trying to avoid a pothole or whatever else can wait until it’s safe.
Please be careful. Witnessing the EMS put this body into the ambulance has shaken me to the core. Love each to its fullest and don’t ever forget to tell the people you love how much you love them!