The crash that lasts

Image via WHNT News, Huntsville AL

Image via WHNT News, Huntsville AL

Driving is one of the things most looked forward to by teenagers, and it seems like having a car is the end all be all for newly licensed 16 year olds. The freedom of it is exhilarating.

As a new driver myself, many things have thrilled me about driving; getting a new car for instance has been a major factor in the excitement, along with earning my learners permit and practicing everyday.

At 16 years old I have already witnessed two car accidents happen in front of my eyes. It puts you into complete shock as the action unfolds in what seems to be slow motion. 

Nothing is scarier than the way witnessing a latest crash felt for me.

I looked up from my phone in the backseat of my car and stared into the intersection ahead through the front windshield. I noticed the traffic lights had stopped working as my mom explained how she had seen a fatal accident at this intersection only 45 minutes prior. No traffic lights means a four way stop, I remembered the fact from my latest drivers ed class at school. 

I heard my dad flip the right blinker on and the way it sounded its tik tok, tik tok, into the air felt almost like a ticking time bomb counting down to disaster, and no one knew it yet. 

Suddenly my ears caught a harsh and exploding “POP!” noise and my neck shot my head to the right as two cars heading full speed had collided sliding to the opposite curb only five feet in front of my car. Glass and car parts filled at least half of the road and airbags blocked my view of the people inside the vehicles. 

I was shaking as my mom bolted out of the car to help the victims and yelled back at me to call 911. I couldn’t process those words, I’d never thought that I would be calling that number. Not at this age. The phone dialed and rang as my hands shook. My parents were already rushed to the scene, and I saw a man, bleeding, stumble out of the passenger seat of the first car. And the driver of the second duck under his airbag to rush out of the smoking SUV.

First responders were at the accident within five minutes, yet before they arrived I stood  on the curb watching the immediate aftermath and it was silent. No sirens, no screaming. Just my heartbeat pounding through my ears and the sound of my mom struggling to talk to the unconscious victim in the backseat of the first car.

All that went through my head was, “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t me, but what if it was? 10 seconds later and it would have been us.”

To me, car accidents are the most terrifying and tragic scenario a person could ever watch. They strike your human instinct in a biological way. According to Dr. John Mayer, clinical psychologist, seeing a disaster triggers the part of your brain responsible for emotions and survival tactics, turning what you see to your “fight or flight” response. Scientifically, you are programmed to stare at disaster. 

This tragedy is something I will never forget, especially when driving a car myself. It is not only a lesson but a warning to young new drivers. As one myself, I will never take for granted the specific safety rules and regulations driving entails, no matter how boring drivers ed class seems to feel.