A Day I Hoped Would Never Happen: Reacting To My First Accident

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I saw a white flash out of the corner of my eye, and the next thing I knew I was facing sideways and had taken the impact of an airbag to my face. It took a moment, but then it hit me, I had just crashed.

That realization made me spring into action. I looked over at the woman in the other car, who was freaking the hell out, but thankfully awake. I lifted myself right up out of my seat and hopped out over the passenger door (perks of a convertible). I ran over, opened the door and helped the woman out of her car. We were both seemingly uninjured, thank God.

At that point, though, I realized she was pregnant, like very pregnant, and the concern for both of us turned to her baby. Luckily the paramedics cleared her when they arrived.

After I knew we were all okay, I looked back over at my gleaming read Miata. I had just signed the papers on it 4 days prior, and now here it was, smashed up good in the middle of the street. I didn’t have time for emotions, though, I knew I had to take document the scene, and take photos from every angle.

As I did so, I called my parents to come pick me up, my boss to let him know I wouldn’t be in today, and my girlfriend to let her know what had happened and that I was alright.

I was riding the massive wave adrenaline, but I was feeling very cloudy in my head. There was just so much I had to do, so many bases I knew I had to cover. I never took even a second to stop and catch my breath, I never allowed myself a brief moment to calm myself down after taking a hard hit to the head. Finally it caught up with me. As we were all exchanging our insurance information, I realized I had been doing way too much, and I turned and vomited all over the ground.

At that point, the officers at the scene told me I should really get to the hospital. I knew vomiting wasn’t a good sign, and luckily my parents were almost there by then. I gave my statement to the police, watched my buddy, Ace (the Miata) get dragged onto a flatbed, and went off to the hospital.

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Sitting in the ER, waiting, everything was rushing through my mind. What happened, how it happened, why it happened. Then, in the midst of all of this, I saw a boy come through the door, being wheeled in by his mother. He had lost his legs (not related to my accident), and that was when it hit me just how lucky I was here. It could have been so much worse.

I mean, at the time, I thought I had a concussion. As it turned out, I didn’t even have that. Heck, in the coming days, I didn’t even have much whiplash at all. I think the accident happened so fast that I didn’t even have time to tense up for the impact. By the time I realized what was happening, it was over, and I think that saved me a lot of pain.

Similarly, the pregnant lady who hit me, her airbag didn’t deploy, and that probably saved her child’s life. I mean look at the front of her car, it definitely seems as though it should have deployed. She was very, very lucky.

Lastly, she hit my car right in the driver side wheel, and that spared the frame most of the force of the impact. The repairs were extensive, over $10,000 worth, but Ace was not totalled.

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Here he is the day I picked him up from the body shop last week, his grin as big as ever. The shop did a great job with the repairs, and only a trained eye will be able to guess at the carnage Ace has been through. As it turns out, he’s had some decent body work done on his passenger side too. I knew of an accident on his record, but the body shop was able to show me in more detail.

So Ace isn’t perfect, but he still looks damn near so to most people. I actually like my Miatas to be a little tarnished. From an ideological standpoint, I think it suits the Miata philosophy. These cars are about getting out in the world and enjoying life, and maybe helping your friends catch a few Pokemon along the way.

I never knew how I’d feel about Ace if and when I got him back. For some people, a psychological switch flips, and the car never feels the same again. Part of me hoped Ace would be totalled, that was my immediate response. That said, the weekend after the accident, I was down at the beach for Memorial Day, and I saw multiple Miata Club Editions roll by, and it pained me in my heart. The people driving them were all clearly enjoying their lives, especially the epic gentleman riding top-down in heavy rain with pilot goggles on (I salute you!). I knew I wanted Ace back after feeling that sense of loss.

Now that I have him back, I’m really thrilled that he wasn’t totalled. For me, the accident has actually accelerated my sense of connection with this car. I mean it almost feels weird not to use his name. The way I see it, Ace kept me safe from injury, or worse, and for that I have nothing but gratitude.

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In terms of how I feel about the accident, the biggest thing for me was the lack of control. I mean, I’m someone who takes driving extremely seriously, and I’ve spent a good amount of time honing my driving skills to become a genuinely good driver. I’ve probably averted around 20 very serious accidents so far in my 10 years behind the wheel. But in this instance, there was absolutely nothing I could do. I had no time to react, not even time to realize what was happening until it had happened. I guess you could say it has definitely broadened my awareness of safety in cars, and I value it a lot more as a result. Having the driving skills to avoid an accident are very important, but it’s equally important to make sure the car you’re in can take a hit if it has to. The NC Miata may be small, but its built very solid. Keep in mind, it has to pass the same crash tests as every other car on the road.

I held off over a month to write this article because I wanted to let the insurance situation settle. The accident was unquestionably deemed her fault by the police, as she turned into the side of my car while I was going 40mph. Had she turned slower (between still traffic in my left lane, I was in the right lane), then I may have been able to avoid her, or she likely would’ve just missed me. But no, she gunned it without taking the time to look and see if anyone was coming. It was a brutally stupid decision, and it could’ve killed me as well as the child she was carrying. I don’t hold any ill will against her at all, though, not at the scene, and not now. I just really hope this scared the living shit out of her enough that she will never turn blindly into oncoming traffic again.

Once quick dumb decision can have drastic consequences, and we all, myself especially, need to remember that every time we get behind the wheel. We really are responsible not just for our own safety, but for the safety of everyone we share the road with.

I am eternally grateful to have been so lucky in this situation because I know it could have easily gone a different way. On top of all that luck, Ace managed to survive, so I look forward to what’s to come with him.

PS: ALWAYS WEAR YOUR DAMN SEATBELT, and sit as far back as you can. One of the reasons I wasn’t hurt here was because I did those things. You have to leave room for the airbag to expand… if you don’t it will expand regardless, but your ribs and internal organs will be in its way. Best not to have that be the case. Please be smart, people.

-Nick Walker

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4 thoughts on “A Day I Hoped Would Never Happen: Reacting To My First Accident”

  1. Damn man, I’m glad you and Ace survived that! Accident looked awful but everyone involved was fortunate enough to walk away a bit beat up but fine. Enjoy life and Ace!

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  2. Thank God you were OK! Thank God the other driver and unborn child were OK. Appreciate your wisdom about driving defensively and getting as much distance as possible from the steering wheel.

    Like

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