It was the best time, it was the worst time
I had my first car accident this week. Actually – let me rephrase that: I was in my first car accident. I wasn’t behind the wheel or in the car, but I still felt like I had whiplash.
“I’m fine, but I had an accident.” It’s exactly the kind of phone call that everyone dreads being received by a family member – although I can admit that the call is far worse for many.
My husband was behind the wheel of our trusted third generation Subaru Outback (‘The Duchess’), driving 40 km / h down a main road in our suburbs, when another driver decided to make an ill-advised U-turn right on the way of our car with barely a second warning.
The noise of the collision was enough to pull the employees of the nearby Audi Service Center from their work onto the road.
In many ways, it was the best scenario for a car accident (if there is such a thing). The other driver, visibly shaken, immediately took responsibility and apologized profusely. Nobody was hurt.
My husband was able to drive from the street into the Audi parking lot, where helpful mechanics quickly informed him that the car was not safe to drive (liquids spilled all over the floor – dead giveaway).
The staff even told my husband that his CCTV cameras had recorded the incident in case we needed them.
I arrived at the scene minutes after the accident because it happened near our house. It was impressive how quickly your day can change from good to not so good, but relieved that everyone was fine.
The other driver assured us that he had complete security (we did too) and would sort everything out the moment he got home. Time was of the essence as our car was slowly coating the forecourt of the service center with a thin layer of oil. We exchanged details and returned home to calm our nerves.
Having never experienced anything like this before, I learned that at this point the adrenaline subsides and panic sets in.
My husband, who has never had a car accident either, began to beat himself up for not having recorded enough information from the other driver.
Usually extremely calm and cool, the crash had shaken him so much that he couldn’t keep his hands from shaking, let alone sensibly consider asking for the information he would need later.
According to the experts, also known as NRMA Insurance Executive Manager Luke Gallagher, there are a few important things to do immediately after an accident:
- Get safe – Make sure you are safe off the road and call 000 if you are injured or dangerous.
- Get the details – Make a note of the details of the other drivers involved and take photos of the accident if you are able. These key details include the other driver’s name, phone number, address, and license details, as well as the make, model, and registration number of all other vehicles involved, and the names and numbers of the witnesses.
- Get a tow – If necessary, contact your insurer or roadside assistance to arrange a towing service.
If possible, take as many photos of the scene as you can. Damage to your car, damage to other cars, photos of the drivers’ licenses of those involved, photos of the area and photos of the road conditions – all of these are extremely helpful in detailing the incident for your insurance claim later on.
Next came a quick series of good and bad events for us. Advice from friendly colleagues. Several anxious contemplations of the CCTV footage. A hectic search to confirm the other driver’s registration online (checked out). Generous phone calls from CarAdvices Verlag James Ward, who offer to get us an additional car in the meantime. Phone calls to the police just in case. Calls to our panicked parents.
Fortunately, not long afterwards we heard from the other driver, who still sounded shaken and told us he would sort everything out tomorrow morning.
As it turned out, waiting only increased our fear. So we decided to hasten the claim to our end, organize the tow truck, and start the process.
A word of unsolicited advice: We found that acting quickly, independently and decisively is the most efficient way to suppress the bland fear that becomes inevitable after an accident.
This morning I ran to the scene of the accident to meet the tow truck driver. When I got there, I had to laugh at the sight of the battered outback, surrounded by rags sucking up their oil spills and really lowering the caliber of the otherwise glitzy, pristine forecourt of Audi.
I greeted her for, as my colleague Ben Zachariah said very precisely: “If the outback is bad and your husband is not, then it did his job.”
The Audi service team was graciously untouched by the mess – without being asked, they grabbed the keys, opened the car, and four employees politely pushed the car into position for the tow truck driver, who told me he would do his best to save our loved one Duchess.
The level of kindness shown to me was enough to make me feel tearful.
Less than 24 hours later, the ordeal was over – both drivers had their insurance claims made, our car had been towed and all papers were taken care of, although unfortunately it looks like our Duchess, on the other hand, is unfortunately not going to leave it behind on the heroic last one Gesture for our family.
The whole experience taught me something I probably won’t forget. As temporary citizens of the streets of our nation, we are truly at the mercy of one another – for better or for worse.
It doesn’t matter how good you are as a driver or how safe your car is. A split second decision made by a stranger can make all the difference. If you think about it for too long, it’s enough that you never want to drive again.
Yet it was also a group of strangers who saved me and my husband’s bad experience.
The service center mechanics, who without hesitation got on their hands and knees to mop up the spilled oil. The friendly insurance agent who was the first to ask me, “Are you and your husband okay?” The sturdy tow truck driver who told me he’d take care of everything.
We can be each other’s worst enemies or best friends at the wheel. Every time we get into the car, we need to remember that we are responsible not only for our own safety, but also for the safety of every passenger, pedestrian, driver and cyclist who drives past us. It’s a responsibility none of us should take lightly.
While I wasn’t directly involved, an incident that could have been far worse served as a timely, necessary reminder of the significant, life-changing responsibilities that a licensed driver brings.
On the plus side, we can now buy a new car.
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I learned something crucial from my first experience in a car accident