Yesterday, while rushing around my neighborhood to reach an appointment on time, I narrowly escaped being hit in the craziest and scariest car accident I have ever witnessed in my life.
Let me backtrack. You see, I had just raced over to fuel up my car and unfortunately, as luck would have it, the Mobil station near our home had run out of gas. As I stared at the fuel gauge and noticed it was dangerously close to red, I decided I'd take my chances, hop on the highway and find a station along the way that hopefully had more than a self serve pump (yes, I know I'm a spaz but I don't know how to pump gas - a story for another day).
And so, I drove back down towards the highway and was stopped at a traffic light adjacent to the local fire house, when out of nowhere I heard a loud and annoying honking sound. The light was red and I couldn't understand why someone was beeping at me until I looked across the street and saw a silver car with a dented front end with smoke billowing out from underneath the hood. As the car began to roll slowly into the street, what I witnessed next was completely surreal.
Within a matter of seconds, the car sped up and backed into the car behind it, then drove forward at top speed and hit the guard rail across the street. The driver then backed up again and hit another car and then came careening across the street in my direction, speeding into the fire station. At first, I thought the car was going to crash right through the garage of the fire house but instead, she hit a Mercedes SUV that jerked forward and hit a street sign. As my car idled helplessly at that stop light, a mere three feet away from that dangerous driver, I literally froze in my tracks. I could hear the motor rumbling and knew that all it would take was for her to put it in reverse and I would be her next target.
Suddenly, a firefighter emerged from the station to inspect what had just transpired, and the car finally came to a halt. With my hands shaking, I pulled over to the side of the road to call my mom and let her know there was no way I'd be meeting her at the wake I was supposed to attend that afternoon and then drove three blocks to my home and was shaking uncontrollably the entire way.
About 10 minutes later, I returned to the scene of the accident so I could give the police my account of the story and I then asked them what they suspect had happened. They informed me that the driver of the car was an elderly woman and they didn't know whether she blacked out or had a mental episode while operating the car. Considering she had the wherewithal to switch gears during the four car collision, I'm convinced she didn't black out. But what disturbs me the most is that if someone had been walking on the street - like my friend's 92 year old grandfather who just last week was killed by an elderly person driving a car, the circumstances in this collision could have had tragic results.
Following yesterday's experience, I now strongly believe that if an individual is passed a certain age and they are taking medication that could potentially alter their abilities to drive effectively and carefully, they should not be allowed to operate a moving vehicle.
Just as teens can be reckless when they first learn how to drive, I believe the elderly have fallen into an incredibly dangerous category as well. Defensive driving takes on a whole new meaning when the person at the wheel has taken leave of their senses and their car becomes a weapon that could potentially maim and kill innocent drivers. And now, after several fatal accidents in my area, I'm starting to think it's only going to get worse.
As I replay the series of events in my head over and over again, all I keep thinking is I could have been next. If I made that left turn, that car could have come hurtling into my door or if I had moved a few inches forward, she could have collided with me as she sped into the fire station.
While this frightening experience may never be reported to the media because there were no fatalities, what I've learned is that a near miss is a wake up call to always be on high alert. If you are an elderly person and are feeling sluggish or are on medication, please think twice before you step inside a car. And if you are a busy mom or dad or a teenager anxious to get behind the wheel of your parent's SUV, please consider the consequences of driving while distracted. Let's all take a deep breath before we get into our cars and please be careful. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our fellow drivers on the road to drive as safely as we can when we get behind the wheel of a car. All it takes is one wrong move to change the course of someone's life forever. Don't be that person. Drive defensively or don't drive at all.