The Accident

I was driving along Interstate Highway 80 in Pennsylvania a few summers ago, on my way to Wisconsin. I love to drive, and this day was perfect — sunny, not too much traffic. I had the car outfitted with NCAS (Neil's Cop Away System), which meant a radar detector and a CB radio. As I cruised along at about 80 miles per hour, I heard some truckers on the CB.

"He's sliding. A four wheeler cut him off."

"There he goes, he's going over."

"What's the 20 on that?"

"About mile marker 187 and a half."

I was going down a hill around a long gentle curve, and I glanced over at the mile marker that I was just passing. It was 187! I got off the gas and got on the brakes. Sure enough, as I slowed, the accident scene came into view around the corner. I pulled over and got out to see if I could help.

A tractor trailer was almost completely upside down next to the road. It had gone down an embankment and rolled over, and slid for some distance on its roof. The cab was badly mangled and the load of garbage it had been carrying was strewn behind it. As I approached the mess, people were starting to say, "Where's the driver?". It was chillingly clear that he was nowhere near the cab. We started looking around, until suddenly we heard, "There he is!".

He was under the trailer, his head bleeding, half covered by garbage, the structure balanced over him. He was just starting to groan and move. We rushed to his side, and attempted to convince him to lie still, since we did not know how badly he was hurt. The load looked like it probably would not collapse, so in my judgement it was better that he not move. A person who claimed to be an EMT arrived within a minute. I drove away then, because I did not think I could help any more, and it was dangerous to have extra cars parked in the area. I do not know if he fully recovered or not, but it looked like he would be all right.

What he had gone through did not really sink in until I thought about it some more. The truck had rolled over, and the cab had started to shred as it slid along the rocky ground. Maybe the driver had a seat belt on, maybe not - it would not have mattered. When the cab was shredded enough, he was pulled out of his seat. The entire cab and about half the trailer slid over him before he and the wreckage came to a halt.

I am amazed that he was not hurt more. The human body is a wonderful thing, that is both fragile and tough at the same time.

I haven't slowed down since then. I still like to drive fast, but I take it very seriously and concentrate on my driving. In over 25 years of driving, I've had some close calls, but not a single collision with another car and no off road experiences, either. I like to think that it has something to do with how much attention I pay to my driving.