Friday, November 20, 2009

In The Blink Of An Eye

Today Eddie and I were heading down I-10 just east of Thousand Palms, CA when the traffic started to slow. We were directly behind a pilot car (the cars who lead or follow oversized loads) who was following one of those trucks that haul mobile home halves. You know, when you see one part of someone's house and they twelve miles down the road, you see the other half.

We couldn't see the reason for the slow down (Eddie was driving, I was in the passenger seat) but Ed uttered, "Come onnn," seemingly in annoyance of the typical California traffic. Just after he said that, we saw a lone tire shoot out from the direction of the mobile home and roll down the side of the highway in the direction of the pilot car. Actually, the pilot car was catching up with the rolling tire since we were all going the same way!

The pilot car driver slowed, the tire shot right past him (towards us!) and then wobbled, veered and headed toward the wall. It hit the wall, bounced off, crossed in front of us and into the center lane of traffic.

At that instant, I thought to myself, oh shit, someone is going to hit that and before I could say it out loud, someone did hit it. The driver lost control of his car, which crossed right in front of us and then smacked into the wire fencing on the side of the highway and flipped into the air, landing on its side!

Oh. My. God. RIGHT BEFORE OUR VERY EYES! I'd never seen an accident in motion before. I've seen the aftermath, but never the duringmath. Yeah, I know, it's not a word. usual I wasn't dressed appropriately for public (I hang in comfy clothes when not driving or when I'm in the truck all day) and wasn't wearing shoes, so all I could do was yell at Ed. "Oh my God! Get out! Go see if he's okay! Hurry! Shit. Shit. Where are my clothes?? Where's my camera? Hurry, go check on that guy!"

So as Ed went to check on the guy driving the car, I threw on some pants and shoes, grabbed my camera and headed out. Several other people had stopped to help at that point and they were all standing around the Jeep, which was sitting in the dirt, where it had landed; on the drivers side door.

Everyone checked on the driver to make sure he was ok (which he seemed to be) and they helped him climb out of the vehicle. I can't imagine that he wasn't flustered, but he appeared very calm and the only blood I saw was from a little scratch on his hand; but then again, I was more focused on taking pictures, so I didn't pay much attention. I couldn't believe how the car flipped so easily (although people always do say Jeeps are prone to flipping) because the guy driving it wasn't speeding at all. I say this because I saw the rate at which he came up beside us. We had slowed way down and he must have seen our brake lights and done the same, but since he was passing us in the middle lane he couldn't possibly have seen what was happening on the other side of the road, which is why he hit the tire. It totally took him by surprise.

The police were right behind us (we had passed them about half a mile back) and the EMS, Fire Department and tow truck arrived within minutes. The EMS checked out the driver, determined he was fine and left. The fire department assessed the scene for any fire or chemical hazards and they took off.
The only person left to do his job was the tow truck driver who, within minutes of checking out the wreck, began to hook up to the Jeep and get it upright before dragging it onto his truck.
Although this made for an interesting half hour this afternoon, I'm thankful for two things; one, I wasn't driving the truck and two, the driver of the car was okay. I'm usually very judgemental about accidents because I see so many drivers (cars and trucks) taking too many risks on the road; whether it's driving too fast, talking or texting, changing lanes erratically, or just plain being discourteous. I usually figure it was their fault to begin with, but I actually saw this guy and knew he did nothing wrong, so I was very happy he didn't get hurt worse in what was a freak incident involving a flying tire.

It's hard to prepare for unexpected events like this and it's a great (although costly for some) reminder of how important it is to pay attention while on the road and in traffic. This happened so fast, if Ed wasn't paying attention, he could have hit the tire or worse, been hit with the Jeep as it careened in front of us. I'm thinking the size of our truck would have kept us fairly safe in this situation, but that's no reason to not do your best to avoid any type of collision. Ed saw what was happening (with the slow of the traffic) far enough ahead to determine that something was up and reacted exactly how he should have.

As for the guy in the Jeep - I'd say he's very lucky as it could have been much worse....he could have hit a concrete wall.

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Leigh Hutchens Burch said...

Wowzers. I'm so glad that the guy is okay. And I'm sorry you had to witness it.

I'm never seen the duringmath either, but I did see the aftermath of a fatal wreck when I was driving (alone) from Louisville to Cleveland last summer and it really bothered me.

Also, glad you and the Edd-ster weren't involved!

chip said...

did the driver who lost the tire stop?

The Daily Rant said...

Amber: I'm glad me and the Edd-ster weren't involved either!

Chip: Yes, he did, but further up the road. I don't think he came back to the accident site - but his pilot car driver was there, so I guess they were communicating via phone or CB.