If you’re at all familiar with who I am, then you know that I drive for a living; either in a van or bobtail box truck. Being a driver comes with the acceptance of the fact that you’re always at risk of being involved in a vehicle collision, be it minor or major. Even if you’re a careful defensive driver that is aware of your surroundings, there will always be a chance for the unexpected to occur.
Something that you can cannot control; something that could potentially take your life.
For me this occurred exactly one year ago, approximately around this time of day. But before going into the details (based from my recollections and the highway patrol collision report) let me go back to before the accident.
It was a beautiful and seemingly normal Friday. I had completed the morning half of the cart route and was returning back to the branch I work out of to unload and then eat lunch (a “footlong” Subway chicken sandwich that I picked up during my break). I was running slightly behind schedule as I had encountered an issue at a previous stop, but otherwise everything seemed normal, or as normal as you might expect it to be.
Shortly after merging onto westbound US-50 I was witness to a large tractor-trailer tail-gating a very small Volkswagon coupe or sedan when suddenly the driver of the Volkswagon had the balls to brake check the semi.
Quck note: this was not the cause of my collision, but it is somewhat related. Or at the very least gives some more flavor to my story.
Naturally the driver of the semi did not take too kindly to the brake check and began driving rather aggressively to attempt to keep up with the Volkswagon after speeding off following the brake check.
Folks. Don’t ever brake check a semi. It’s just stupid. REALLY STUPID. You won’t win that battle. So just don’t. EVER. Okay?
At this point traffic was rather light, so I didn’t think too much of what I witnessed other than noting that the drivers were both assholes. Major ones at that. I carried on as usual listening to whatever podcast I was listening to (amazingly I’ve completely forgotten what I was listening to).
Being that it was right before lunch-time traffic did increase after crossing over one major street and approaching another. Traffic became rather congested in the #4 and #5 lanes (of 5 lanes) with cars merging on to the freeway and other cars preparing to take the next exit. Prior to this I had moved into the #3 lane which was devoid of cars to avoid the congestion.
Being that I was driving a bobtail box truck I was on high alert for drivers that love to dart out in front of you, sometimes with a short indication with their turn signal, but usually without. As such I was focused on what was in my right-frontal cone that I did not expect to suddenly feel an impact near the rear-passenger side of the truck I was driving.
It came suddenly and without warning and with so much force that instantly the bobtail I was driving began to turn to the right after the initial force of impact moved the rear of the truck to my left.
My initial thought was that the semi (possibly the same that was brake checked earlier) I was passing in the #4 lane had struck my truck. The force of the impact certainly seemed to support that theory, but at that point it didn’t really matter. All I could think about was “WHAT. THE. FUCK?” as I held on trying to fruitlessly correct the massive momentum shift of my truck.
Considering that the truck was fully loaded (more so than usual, actually) there was nothing I could to prevent the truck from overturning on to the driver side and skid along the freeway for what seemed like an eternity. Now had the trajectory of my truck not changed following the initial impact this story would be far less scary and would be now over.
But nope. There’s more.
Like I said, my truck started to turn to the right after the impact and prior to overturning which changed the trajectory of the skid towards the shoulder of the freeway, which just happened to be a concrete barrier near the top of an overpass.
Now here’s where my recollection is a little hazy. I’m not sure if the truck had completely overturned prior to impacting the side barrier or after. What isn’t hazy is that had I been in one of the older cab-forward bobtails I would probably be dead following the impact with the side barrier. Instead I was driving one of the newer, more traditional bobtails with the engine in front of the cab.
That engine saved my life.
The force of the impact with the side barrier then caused the truck to “bounce” off and spin/rotate on the driver side, finally coming to a rest blocking the #4 and #5 lanes with the nose of the truck pointing towards the center divider after a third (much smaller) impact with a concrete sound-barrier wall on the overpass as it declined.
After coming to a complete stop and realizing that I had survived the multiple collision I took stock of my condition which fortunately was surprisingly good. No broken bones that I could tell at the time, just a massive burning sensation on my left thigh from when the truck overturned and my body impacted the interior of the driver side door.
Now at this point many people ask me as to how I was able to exit the truck considering that the truck had overturned on to its driver side. Well, that my friends is pretty easy: I just walked out where the windshield used to be. You see, the impact with the side barrier was so violent that it sheered much of the engine cabin apart which compromised the integrity of the cab causing the top of the cab to separate from the dash.
I almost wish I had pictures of the damage, but then again it’s probably better that I don’t. The damage was extensive and it’s a miracle that I walked away from the accident with abrasions and a large contusion to my left thigh caused by having my personal keys in my left pocket.
So what caused the accident? My initial theory of the semi proved to be incorrect as the only other vehicle directly involved in the accident was a red Toyota Camry that had struck the truck I was driving.
Yes folks. A CAMRY. A flipping Camry hit me with enough impact to move my truck.
WAIT. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? HOW?
Yah, good question. It wasn’t until I got the highway patrol collision report that it became a little more logical to as how a small Toyota Camry could have caused the resulting collision.
According to the testimony of the driver of the Camry (note: I’m not going to go into specific details here for obvious reasons) there was a semi travelling in the #4 lane that came into her lane possibly impacting the front of her vehicle, causing her to lose control and then veer sharply across the #4 lane and impact the rear tires of my truck.
Due to the lack of information which could identify this semi beyond “a brown tractor-trailer” the collision was ruled a hit and run felony by an unidentified brown semi-truck.
Yup. Felony hit and run by an unidentified third party involved. Case closed. Awesome, right?
Anyhoo, I just thought I’d finally open up and share this story on the anniversary of my accident. Figured it might be a little therapeutic since I have been feeling slightly more anxious prior to today arriving.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering. Yup, still driving for a living (though usually in a van) but I have gotten behind the wheel of a bobtail numerous times since. There will always be risks in everything you do. I decided to control my anxiety, not let my anxiety control me.
(Though that was after a couple of visits with a psychiatrist shortly following the accident)