Car Crashes: a word to the wise from the not-so-wise

Honda CR-V photographed in Rockville, Maryland...

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Let it be stated for the record that I, Corbin Foucart, am henceforth a TERRIBLE driver. This shall be reflected in both my crushed ego and in my insurance premium. However, until 6:57 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, April 1st 2011, I considered myself a good driver. Why the transformation? Because that morning I took my cherished 1994 Honda CR-V and slammed it into a tree.

Now some explanation. I don’t have the right to make excuses; I was ENTIRELY at fault, BUT…

  1. The roads were slippery. It was snowing on April 1st!!
  2. The roads on which I drove were untouched by plows.
  3. Another student totaled her car on the same road that morning. Misery loves company.
  4. I was going around a curve
  5. I was going very slowly (Less than 20 mph). The airbags didn’t go off, and there was barely an impact.

…but I know that I should have been traveling even slower.

As I rounded the curve, the Honda began to slip off the road. Threshold braking did not help at all. Under different circumstances, I would have described the “crunch” sound as very satisfying. At the moment, it sounded like the lid of my own coffin closing. I tried shifting into reverse and backing out, but the Honda had grown attached to the tree and was holding it in a twisted metal embrace. So I called home. Uh oh.

My mom actually thought it was an April fool’s joke. I had to repeat myself several times before she understood that I wasn’t pulling her leg.

 I totaled the car; even though it wasn’t that bad of a crash, the undercarriage was bent.

What I find weird is that it wasn’t a stereotypical ‘bad morning’. I’d been accepted by Stanford, my dream school, the day before and that morning I was still running on a feeling of elation.  I was in no rush, and was looking forward to the day. Needless to say, the collision brought me crashing –no pun intended- back down to Earth. In the grand scheme of things, a totaled car is a small price to pay for my sister’s life and my own, but still frustrating nevertheless. The very sobering reality is that now I have no personal freedom to travel where I please. Doing things I took for granted with a car now has to be coordinated in advance.  

An interesting article by Insurance journal (which is worth having your teen read, by the way) states the a new study showed that the vast majority of teen crashes are caused by failing to scan for possible hazards, speeding, or becoming distracted. While I would argue that my personal case falls under the category of “poor weather or road conditions”, which they cite as rare, I know from the vast majority of accidents and fender-benders my peers are involved in that these three causes are legitimate. Another student I know totalled his car earlier in the year going to fast and driving into a rock wall. Another student did the exact same thing last month. Another student I know hit a tree while texting in the car. I’m sure as a reader you can think of countless similar anecdotal evidence to support the article’s conclusions.

The moral of the story to me is that accidents can happen WHENEVER you let your guard down.  Be safe, be vigilant, and as I’ve learned, BE SLOW!

The tree could not be reached for comment.

OUI – A Cautionary Tale

As you may have read from previous posts, I’m about to enter my senior year of high school, something that I am both excited and apprehensive about. On one hand, I can already tell from this summer that senior year is going to be a ton of fun and/or a rip-roaring good time. However, I also realize that the lengthy college application process and AP exams will temper the fun with an experience similar to belly-flopping into a swimming pool of Jell-o (painful). The college application process in particular will do wonders in helping me achieve spiritual and physical separation from my money and free time.  But that’s all in the near future. Right now it’s the end of summer, and the respite from the world of sleep deprivation and #2 pencils has been a welcome change.

So if life’s so peachy, why the title? Well, I’d like to talk about something close to home that occurred recently. About a week ago, three teens crashed an SUV into a utility pole a few miles from where I live. The driver lost control of the car, which rolled over after impact, ejecting one of the three passengers. The driver was trapped in the car, but otherwise fine; the front seat passenger was ejected from the car, but miraculously suffered only minor abrasions; the passenger in the backseat suffered serious injury and was moved to intensive care, where he is now recovering. The driver of the car is currently facing OUI charges.   

This is just one accident in a string of OUI incidents to occur in the town where I live, one involving a death of a passenger about a year ago. What made this one personal for me was that I go to school with the kids in the car. They’re in my graduating class; I sat next to one in Latin, and I played baseball in 8th grade with the passenger who was injured. It’s heartwarming to see the response and support my peers have given to the injured passenger and his family, and I think that closeness says more about our town than the accident did. There will always be mistakes in everyone’s life, but the ability of a community to support one another through them is always more important.

Risky behavior is a dilemma that no amount of police money or lack of personal insurance will solve. In the past week I have heard everything from sympathy to outright condemnation of the accident. For me though, the incident is a lesson in mortality and fragility. As a teen, you think that you are invincible, that nothing can go wrong, and in the comfortable surroundings of a small town you’ve spent years in, that isn’t a hard notion to conceive. But the fact is that we are all mortal, we are all fragile, and tragedies strike when we forget that.

Corbin F.

www.agordon.com