Please Note: The photos in this article do not relate to the stories.

Last Sunday night, on the way back from Benjamin's dedication, Stacy, June and I almost got into a car accident. 

I was speeding along in the passing lane, northbound on 99. I guess I was going about 70, which was enough to keep up with traffic and pass the slowest cars and trucks. Stacy and I were talking, June was asleep in the back of the car. 

Suddenly both Stacy and I noticed that I was approaching the car in front of me very quickly. I stomped on the brakes, which threw everything forward in the car. Just like that, we were on the tail of this Buick in front of us. We didn't hit him. We didn't even brake hard enough to skid, but we were both completely freaked out. June continued to sleep.

The Buick did not have his brake lights on. He wasn't stopped, or slowing, he was just driving a lot slower than I was, so I caught up to him in a big hurry. He was in the passing lane, but he wasn't passing anyone. He was just cruising along at about 50.

I assumed he was stoned, and I felt the overwhelming urge to do something, so I flashed my high-beams. I wasn't really mad, but I definitely thought this stoner should get over into the slow lane. He moved right over, allowing me to drive by and get a look at this guy. He was old. Probably not stoned. Probably just driving slow for safety.

Unlike me.

I estimate that for every actual car accident I've been involved in, I've been in 10 near accidents. 

I've noticed, since leaving driver's training in 10th grade, that there aren't many opportunities to study how other people got into their car accidents. There is plenty of advice and about drunk driving, seatbelt wearing and stoplight stopping, but not a lot of "Hey, here is a dangerous scenario, watch out for it".

I'd like to collect some collision stories. Mine are below. There are a few more at The extraordinary price of dents

My first collision occurred when I was a brand new driver. I was stopped at an intersection, waiting for traffic to clear in both directions so I could make a left turn onto Franklin Blvd. I eased my parents' van out a few feet into the intersection to get a better view. Traffic didn't clear, and I was nervous to be poking out so far into traffic, so I put the van into reverse and rolled back behind the line. BAM! I smacked into another car, behind me at the stop sign. I had been so focused on what was going on ahead that I didn't notice him getting in line behind me. I was scared witless. Luckily, both of our vehicles were unharmed. It had been a slow, straight bumper-on-bumper accident. The guy I had hit didn't even say anything. He just waved it off. I was very relieved. From then on, I swore to be extra careful when backing, taking particular care to always turn my head while the car was in reverse.


My next collision was about a year later. I was driving my mom's Honda Station wagon, in the middle turn lane (the suicide lane). I was behind a Cadillac. We were both turning left into Taco Bell on Florin Road, across from Luther Burbank High School. When traffic cleared, he started left, and pulled into Taco bell's driveway. I was right behind him, not wanting to wait for another break in traffic. Suddenly, he came to a dead stop in the driveway. I stopped too, and realized that I was now blocked and stranded in the middle of a major artery. My attention was now focused on the oncoming traffic to my right. I looked right, then forward, just in time to see him reversing out right into me. BAM. He was trying to make a U-turn in the driveway, and hadn't noticed me on his tail. He pulled over for long enough for me to get out of my car and examine it, but he didn't stick around to see how the story ended. His car appeared undamaged, and my mom's car escaped with just a small spot where the paint was peeled from the front bumper. From then on, I swore to be avoid following anyone into a driveway too closely, and reminded myself to react with the horn when I needed to warn someone of an impending collision.

Rx-7 stop sign runner. 
I crashed my first car on I Street downtown at 23rd street. I was zipping along westbound, before they put all those traffic circles in. An elderly woman cruised through her stop sign at full speed. She didn't even see it. I saw her coming, but couldn't get out of the way in time. I left about 10 feet of skid marks before impact. BAM. It wasn't bad. I had smashed in her Honda's driver's side rear door. My front bumper was crushed in on the passenger side, and only one of my little winking headlights would pop-up. However, this was my first time coming face-to-face with the realities of "repairable vs. totaled". On a 1980 RX7, there wasn't much question that it would be totaled. The take-away lesson from this accident was that at low speeds, it is a easier to avoid a collision... oh, and also, don't give Josh a ride downtown to pick up his dry cleaning.


About two years later, back on I street, I rear-ended a truck. It was at 15th street. I was waiting at the stop light, behind three cars, trying to find something interesting to listen to on the stereo. The light turned green, and traffic started moving. I started moving, with most of my attention still focused on the stereo. I looked up too late. BAM. I had only been going 10 mph, but the cars in front of me had stopped dead. They had begun to move when the light turned green, but stopped because the lead car wanted to turn left. His left turn had been interrupted by a group of pedestrians crossing the road, so he, and everyone behind him, stopped. I didn't see any of this and smacked into the truck, accordianing the hood of my car under his rear bumper. This accident was my fault, and the damage to my car was not covered by my insurance. My $2,000 lessons from this crash was that you should not anticipate the steady acceleration of a group out of a stop, and don't be distracted for more time than your following distance allows.




Do you have a crash experience that other drivers can learn from? I'd love to hear it, and post it here with a bunch of Jose Cuervo ads all over the page. Some crash stories would be greatly enhanced with an illustration, but I don't really have a good system for you to draw-n-send a diagram. If you need an illustration, you'll have to sketch it yourself, take a snapshot and email it to me. Make up a reference number on the story so I know which drawing belongs to which story.

What happened in your crash? Did it change the way you drive?


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July 21st, 2006 

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