It was a beautiful, sunny November day in Kingman and I was on my way to a meeting at the hospital. The noon-time traffic on Stockton Hill Road slowed, and then stopped. Checker Auto Parts was on my right. I glanced in my rearview mirror. Brain alert! A large gray pickup truck filled the mirror, coming fast, with no time to stop. The hit was immediate. My head jerked back and forward as my car lurched into the small pickup truck in front of me.
I sat for a moment to assess the situation. No blood in sight. I grabbed my cell phone and carefully got out of the car as traffic moved slowly past. A young man got out of the truck behind me, and an older man got out of the truck in front. I asked if everyone was OK and dialed 911.
Then I looked at the damages. The gray truck had smashed my trunk down onto the rear wheels of my car, a full-size sedan. I was not going anywhere in this car today, maybe never. The young man apologetically said that he was looking at his young male passenger and engrossed in his conversation. The passenger was looking at his friend, the driver. Neither one had been paying attention.
The police report said the truck was going 35 mph in noon-hour traffic in a big truck with no one looking. These two nice young men, 19 and 20 years old, were distracted by their conversation.
I have a new driving agenda now. I stay off Stockton Hill as much as possible; I take alternate routes. My secret plan is to leave Stockton Hill to the bad drivers.
I look in the rearview mirror more frequently these days, too, and have a new interest in bumpers. Bumpers, I have decided, are only good if like hits like. Bumpers are good if a big truck hits a big truck, or if a little truck hits a sedan. Bumpers do no good if a big truck hits a sedan. I know from experience. Big rigs, on the other hand, often have two-foot-tall bumpers. They can hit any height bumper, but I figure if a big rig hits me, it's all over, bumper or not.
I have been involved in three accidents in my many years of driving. My first was when I was 17 years old. I left my Methodist youth group meeting one March night with four teenage girls as passengers. The temperature was dropping and the pavement turned from wet to icy. My car skidded off the road and rammed into a tree. The girls in the back seat hit the front seat, and my knees left dents in the dashboard. I remember laying in bed feeling as though my whole body had been jammed, just like a finger jammed by a baseball. My mother had no sympathy for my pain, and I had learned a good lesson the hard way. That seems to be universal, since most new drivers have an accident in their first year of driving.
My second accident was decades later, 10 years ago on River Road in Cincinnati. It was an early May morning and I was on my way to my nephew's soccer game. Out of the morning mist, Donner (or maybe Blitzen) was in front of my windshield with his legs tucked up under his body as he flew through the air. He smashed the windshield and then he was on top of my Grand Prix. I had nightmares over that. I killed Donner that May morning on River Road. To make it worse, the police asked if I wanted the venison. No, thank you, I don't need that on my conscience as well.
I was going too fast on that icy road when I was 17. I was young, inexperienced and distracted with four teenage girls in the car. Ten years ago on River Road, there was nothing I could have done - just the wrong place at the wrong moment. This past November was another case of wrong place, wrong time, but this time I had a choice and I made the wrong choice. I had read signs warning that that area of Stockton Hill had a high accident rate.
If I had taken Western Avenue to enter the hospital from the back, I would not have been in the accident, but the man in the pickup would have.
It makes sense for parents to choose to put their young drivers in large vehicles to protect them. I understand that. However, that choice, while protecting your child, may increase the damage to another. That choice has consequences, too.
With all of the complaining about Stockton Hill Road, it is not a bad street. There are more vehicles on it these days, and many drivers cannot handle the increased traffic. We must remind ourselves that an increase in the number of drivers means there are also more inexperienced drivers and more impaired drivers. That combination leads to more accidents.
This winter I vacationed in the Florida Keys where U.S. 1 is the only through road. It is 100 miles of highway connecting Key Largo and Key West. Everyone drives 45 to 55 mph, even through towns, and there are many accidents. With that experience fresh in my mind, Stockton Hill Road traffic looks pretty good, but I'll still take the back streets, thank you.