It Was Just a Fender Bender

The Prompt: Tell us about a bullet you’re glad you dodged — when something awful almost happened, but didn’t.

It wasn’t my first car accident, but it was one of the first where I was a passenger. Laura and I were toodling along McKnight Road preparing to go to the grocery store. The vehicle in front of us stopped short and made an abrupt right hand turn into a car dealership parking lot. Laura was able to stop in time to avoid hitting him, but the driver behind us was not – sickening crunch followed by that weird slow motion convulsion of your body, the seat belt and so forth.

Traffic on McKnight Road Photo: KDKA
Traffic on McKnight Road Photo: KDKA

The injuries were very minor. The police officer was only partially rude. The other driver was very cooperative and obviously upset. The car lot manager was confronted about his staffer (it was a lot car) but protected that person. Sigh. And we were able to continue to the grocery store for essentials before heading home. The car was fixed quickly and now we just deal with the usual fallout of a minor medical incident.

So I am very glad the child in her car was no injured, she was not injured, it wasn’t worse, etc.

This happened in September and two months later, I find myself dealing with some minor PTSD from the incident. I cringe when we slow down in traffic dense areas, I wince when we have to move into that same right hand lane to prepare for our own turn. I even find myself driving “around the long way” to avoid that scenario. Laura will apply the brakes as we are chatting or whatever and I feel my entire body tense and can hear that bumper on bumper scraping sound in my head. I was a passenger in someone else’s car recently and had the same experience. I’m okay when I drive in my car, probably because it is off the ground a bit.  AAA logo

Something awful almost happened, but it didn’t. Unfortunately, it keeps almost happening in my brain and I have to use super intense skills to manage my anxiety, especially because I don’t want the driver to pick up on it. Using my phone helps because I distract myself. But I’m doing a lot of “OH MY GOD” muttering and gasping which is making Laura nuts. She knows it isn’t a reflection on her, but the startle reflex triggers her own reflex and she’s driving a car.

So in a way something bad did happen – I lost my confidence in being a passenger. I have tools to work on it and I have evidence to show that many car accidents are minor, certainly our car withstood this one very well. I’m not angry because it was an accident – the person at fault was the jerk in the car in front of us and yet legally he did nothing wrong. The woman behind us did do something wrong, but she took responsibility for her actions. It is amazing how that simple action of being accountable changes the dynamic of perceived “fault” – but regardless, it was a fender bender.

So crisis averted with some small exceptions. According to AAA, there is a traffic fatality in the US every 13 minutes, more than 40,000 per year. Things as simple as always wearing a seat belt, practicing defensive driving and avoiding distractions significant reduce the likelihood that it will be you.

The holidays also bring additional risk of coping with drivers under the influence. My first car accident (in 1993) involved a drunk driver and it was an awful experience. So any step you take to keep people safe in this regard is much appreciated by the rest of us.

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