Stories from a Car Accident Veteran: Part 1

Cars hate me for some reason. I’ve been in 7 car accidents in my lifetime, only 1.5 of which were my fault, and at this point, I assume that God is either trying and failing to kill me or messing with me. I like to picture him stomping his feet every time it happens screaming “He survived again!” I’m like a cockroach in that way. No matter what he does I never seem to die.

Or maybe he’s testing my durability. I’m probably close to the Guinness World Record of “Most Car Accidents Without Dying.” I want to say that would be a cool title to have but if I’m being honest I’d rather not have an airbag punch me in the face ever again. Or as I like to call them “angry balloons.”

The start of my driving career was almost the end of my life. I totaled two cars before I turned 18.

Car Accident #1: T-bone and Limp Home

  • Victim: 1996 Honda Accord EX, Forest Green
  • Was it my fault? The insurance company determined it was not.
  • Location: Vienna, VA

The year is 2004. Newfound Glory is a good band, people are wearing clothes baggy enough to be trash bags, I’m a junior in high school and it’s the night before prom. As Future would say, “Life is Good”. Well, “life is easy” would be more accurate.

The night before prom I’m at a house party hosted at a comically big house (I lived in a rich school district). The parents aren’t there because apparently money means you don’t have to raise your children. Or care about what they’re doing.

The party is going great. I hadn’t ever really drank alcohol but I had a few sips of Arbor Mist because it was there and I was curious. I stopped drinking probably 3 hours before I ever got in a car so it was a moot point anyway. At least that’s how I remember it.

I distinctly remember leaving the party because I had a strict 11:30 PM curfew and I would either get home on time or die trying to avoid the consequences. It’s funny how fucked up teenage values are. Anyway, as I’m leaving the party my friend rolls up and has weed for sale. What a coincidence I have cash in my pocket. I buy 2 grams for $40 (high school) and head home to get a good night’s sleep for Junior prom.

I was listening to the Youngbloodz “Lean Low” on the way home and enjoying a drive down the windy road of Waples Mill. Now, this road barely had any street lights and had more blind corners than a New York CIty restaurant kitchen. Not to mention the road continuously went up and down which meant even more potential for death.

I approach a hill I’ve gone over many times. It looks like a bell curve except at the top there’s an intersection for a neighborhood nestled in the woods to the right. As I come over the hill, I see the side of an SUV which was weird because I was expecting more road.

Right then I heard the loudest sound I’d ever heard in my life up to that point. It sounded like a bomb went off in my car. The airbag deployed and all I could see was white. All I could hear was tinnitus. Did this really just happen? Am I really this fucked? The scenario was so bad that I was completely calm. The stress overload reset my brain.

My friends who had been tailing us saw the whole thing. Apparently I struck the back right panel of this Toyota 4Runner as it was turning and sent it spinning like a fucking dreidel into the woods. They gave me some gum to mask the arbor mist and I threw my weed into the neighbor’s bushes. The cops are definitely coming, my life is definitely over. Oh well, I had a pretty good run.

Then the driver of the other car gets out. No fucking way. It’s another kid from my high school. Just as questionably sober as I was. We both stare at each other dumbfounded with our temporary PTSD and assess the situation. Car accidents aren’t great, but it was nice to hit somebody I knew. I might have a chance after all.

The dude’s mom comes out and assesses the situation. She quickly realizes that we both need to get the fuck out of there before the police show up. Her house is 25 ft. away, mine is about 14 miles. She says “Just go home and we’ll figure it out in the morning.”

Pretty fucking easy for you to say, lady. My bumper is half ripped off, there are all sorts of fluids leaking from the underbelly of my car, my windshield is shattered, both airbags are deployed, and the dashboard looks like a Christmas tree of warning lights. How the fuck was I supposed to drive home?

I didn’t care. All I wanted was to get out of there and figure it out later. I’ll sleep in the woods if I have to.

I attempt the first mile and things DO NOT go well. The bumper is getting sucked under the tires and my alignment is so fucked up that the wheels are just jiggling back and forth. I pull over and whip out my phone. I call the one friend I think is awake. He says “what am I supposed to do?” I had no answer. I make an executive decision and rip the entire bumper off and place it in the backseat. This helps immensely and I hit the road praying to every God imaginable that a cop doesn’t see me.

The rest of the drive home I looked like Ace Ventura. I’m freaking the fuck out at what my parents are going to say and almost certain I’m going to get pulled over for a variety of reasons.

I get back to my house, park in the garage, and go to break the news to my parents. I knock softly on their door, “hey guys, I got in a little fender bender.” They get up and reassure me that it’s not the end of the world until they open the garage door and turn on the light.

“FENDER BENDER? HOW THE FUCK DID YOU DRIVE THIS HOME?” They were equal amounts angry and flabbergasted at my “achievement”. “GO UPSTAIRS AND GO TO SLEEP WE’LL DEAL WITH THIS IN THE MORNING.” They knew I wasn’t going to sleep, I knew they weren’t going to sleep. We all just laid in our beds staring at the ceiling for the next 6 hours then got up and called the insurance company. Well, they did, I just kind of stood there and felt bad.

Both of us should have been way more injured. We got really lucky. The swerve I did right before impact helped us both avoid the hospital.

We both learned a lesson that night and didn’t talk to each other again for quite some time. Also, I went back to the scene of the crime two weeks later and found the weed that I had stashed in the bush. Everything really does work out in the end.

Car Accident #2: I’m Slightly Bruised and Broken, From a Head-On Collision

  • Victim: 1999 Toyota Solara with the BOSE speaker package
  • Was it my fault? 1,000,000%
  • Location: Wolf Trap, VA

This story also revolves around me picking up weed in high school. Less than 2 years after narrowly escaping responsibility with the first car accident, my attention span fucked me yet again.

I was able to turn the first accident into a much nicer car thanks to the insurance company taking my side. The new whip was a1999 2 door V6 Toyota Solara. The Solara is an underrated car. It was fast, sporty, and had a helluva sound system that made Newfound Glory sound much better than they should. I thought I was the coolest guy in the world.

I left the local pool where all the cool kids hung out because I wanted to buy some weed and smoke it with a girl I was dating at the time. Unfortunately, the weed man was across town. No big deal, it’s summertime I don’t have shit to do.

I start making the trek and as I’m driving through Wolf Trap I get lost in my thoughts. You know when you drive home and completely forget the entire trip? You just arrive at your garage and freak out for a second because you were on autopilot the whole time? It was like that but much worse.

I didn’t have a smartphone to distract me, my mind was simply elsewhere. I’m driving at a reasonable speed trying to think about where to smoke the weed I was about to purchase when my brain comes to and there’s a car 10 ft in front of me. I still maintain that the car didn’t have brake lights but honestly, it would’ve happened regardless of his brake light status.

Time slows down to a crawl. My thought process was this: I can’t rear-end him, I had just gotten in an accident and couldn’t afford to do that again. I wouldn’t have a car after that. My options were swerve left and try to duck into a neighborhood or smash my car into the back of this shitty Toyota Camry. I chose the former but before I could pull into the neighborhood a Dodge Ram came out of nowhere. And by came out of nowhere I mean he was driving exactly as he was supposed to.

I hit him head-on as were both going a good rate of speed. The outfit I was wearing couldn’t have been worse for getting into a car accident. I was shirtless with swim trunks on and sandals. The impact ripped both of my sandals off and the seatbelt burns made it look like I had a purple seatbelt tattoo for almost a month.

I get out of the car in a daze. There’s no fucking was I just did this again. This is a dream, that’s all. Except I’m not waking up. Holy shit, I really just totaled another car. Shockingly I was uninjured except for the seatbelt burn and airbag burns on my face. After a minute I realize I should check on the other driver, he should be fine he was in a fucking Dodge Ram and hit a lowrider Toyota.

He was not fine. The gray-haired 50-ish-year-old man was hurt. Like, really hurt. His face said it all. I felt awful. The phone call I made to my parents was one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever done in my life. “It happened again, you need to come out here.” The silence on the other end of the line was deafening.

I’m sitting on the side of the road as the cops pull up. They take my statement and call an ambulance to take care of the old man I thought I just killed. He had to be stretchered out and everything. Don’t buy Dodge Rams, I don’t care how much torque they have. If a Toyota Solara can send you to the hospital your truck is a heap of shit.

I remember sitting on the side of the road and wishing I had also been fucked up enough to go to the hospital. At least I would get some sympathy from my parents. Alas, no sympathy came. They were beyond disappointed and for good reason. I’m sure they were wishing this was another “fender bender” and when they pulled up the first thing my dad said was “There’s no saving this car.” Welp.

I distinctly remember a black family driving by and one of the kids leaning out the window saying “God DAMN”. My soul was filled with equal parts embarrassment and shame. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. In my mind, there was no coming back from this. Also, I never ended up buying the weed which was the real tragedy.

As I sat in the car shaking from the adrenaline, playing Tetris on my flip phone, my Dad dealt with the police because I didn’t have the ability to talk. The worst part of the whole situation was I had a doctor’s appointment and had to drive there with my Mom in complete silence which was only broken by “I can’t believe you did that.” Me neither.

I get to the doctor for a routine physical and the first thing she thought I was there for the obvious injuries I had sustained. “What HAPPENED?!” She said. “It’s been a rough week,” I meekly replied. Kill me now.

The doctor treated me for my injuries and gave me some aspirin to deal with the pain. The physical pain was tolerable, the shame I felt was much worse. My friend was T9 word texting me, “You still coming to pick this up” “No”, I texted back, “I’m not going anywhere for a while.” I was a melodramatic asshole back in the day but so is every teenager.

I didn’t win the insurance battle this time. Turns out when you cross a double yellow line and smash headfirst into an innocent motorist the accident is deemed “100% your fault”. That was the end of my driving career, at least for a little while. It was probably for the best.

Now that I’m 33, the thought of giving a 16-year-old the keys to a motor vehicle is comical to me. I had no concept of responsibility or how dangerous a motor vehicle was, I’m honestly lucky I didn’t die 30 times before both these accidents. Teenagers don’t grasp the concept of responsibility and yet we put them into 5,000-pound steel death machines and let them drive 80 mph right next to us. That’s scarier to me than an 80-year-old driving. And I hate old people on the road.

My driving career had a tumultuous but predictable start. I’m glad that I learned very young that cars can kill you really easily. That lesson made me a responsible driver as an adult but you can’t control other people on the road. A lesson I learned in the following years.

I’ll save those stories for part 2, when instead of almost killing myself other drivers tried to kill me.

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