This is a momentous day. Just over a week away from my 34th birthday, and I got in my first-ever car wreck while behind the wheel (I’ve been in a couple with others driving) — and it was a doozy! A seventeen car chain-reaction.
Traffic had stopped really quickly and I had just finished congratulating myself for not smashing into the Toyota minivan in front of me when the Honda behind me gave me a memorable physics lesson. I initially avoided impact and came to a stop, but the woman driving the Honda behind me took the brunt from a giant garbage truck behind her and ever-so-gently (in relative terms) slammed me into the minivan.
Things I learned:
- Camera phones (or digital cameras in general) are really useful at an accident scene. Instead of writing everything down, take some photos of the damage, a copy of the relevant people’s insurance cards, etc.
- In 17-car accidents, the police break things up into smaller sub-accidents, and the iterate over the smaller accidents.
- One way to meet a cross-section of Silicon Valley is to get into a large accident. I met a garbage truck driver, a woman who works at Cisco, a couple of Highway Patrol guys, and a woman of indeterminate occupation. I don’t recommend this as a way to meet people, but you’re gonna be on the side of the road for a while, so why not exchange a few pleasantries?
- In accident reports, one of the first things the cops ask you is, “were you using a cell phone at the time of the accident?” (I wasn’t).
- People are surprisingly calm in 17-car accidents (and this one didn’t seem so bad). There’s something about seeing 16 other cars on the side of the road in various states of dented-ness that makes one think, “I’m lucky that this wasn’t worse.” When 17 cars are involved, you’re bound to see at least a few cars that got it worse than you.
- I grew up in North Carolina as a big fan of the old CHiPs TV show (we used to ride our bikes and pretend we were CHiPs). For that reason, I felt like I was dealing with a celebrity when the motorcycle cop from the California Highway Patrol took a report from me. They are good guys. . . just like Ponch and John were.
Anyway, I’m ok and my car seems to need some minor bodywork. Whew.
Postscript: I found possibly the most naive FAQ question EVER in a CHiPs FAQ: