Distracted Driving Dangers Driven Home
On Saturday I was heading east in the convertible, top down, Jackie-O sunglasses and scarf on, singing to whatever was playing on the radio. I was in the number one lane – the “fast” lane – on my way to Indio to visit my mother-in-law.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere and flying toward me was a slab of rubber. Apparently the car in front of me ran over a big rig tire tread that had peeled off a truck somewhere down the line. I was going 70 miles an hour and that piece of heavy-duty rubber was probably traveling at least 50. I remember thinking, “I’m going to get hit,” and then there was an explosion of broken glass.
The windshield shattered, but didn’t dissolve – most of it remained intact in the frame. I hit the emergency flashers and made my way to the right shoulder.
I was covered in glass but because I was wearing my sunglasses my eyes had been protected and the scarf prevented glass from getting into my scalp and chest. Miraculously, I hadn’t been cut. I called 911 and waited for a tow truck.
After getting out of the car and brushing off the glass, I did a quick survey of the car. To me, it looked like the rubber hit the windshield then bounced down the driver’s side of the car. Rubber skid marks streaked across the side. It didn’t look like there was any substantial body damage, though.
For whatever reason, when I saw the rubber barreling at me I didn’t swerve to the breakdown shoulder on my left nor did I swerve right into traffic. Apparently, I did lean my body to the right because the back of my seat had glass all down it. I didn’t slam on the brakes, which may have caused the car behind me to slam into me. Even though I only had a second or two at best before impact, I had enough time to make a choice of how to react.
We’ve been hearing a lot about distracted drivers, drivers who are talking on the phone, eating or even – unbelievably – texting. The California Highway Patrol is cracking down on distracted drivers and after my experience on Saturday I understand why.
If I were trying to text someone while driving, for example, I wouldn’t have had any time to prepare for the impact. I would have been taken by surprise and would have responded accordingly, perhaps plowing into the guardrail or into a car next to me. Maybe I would have slammed on the brakes, causing the cars behind to crash into me or into each other.
But thankfully, the worse case scenario did not play out and the damage to me extends to my wallet and the deductible I have to pay. The car is still at a repair shop in Indio and I’ll be traveling down there this weekend to pick it up.
If you or someone you know gambles when driving by not paying complete attention to road conditions, look at the picture above. I hope it’s a sobering reminder of why driving demands and deserves our full attention.