Three crashes, one year, and many lessons on old cars and drivers
They say the third time is a charm. But having just been rear-ended last month for the third time in little more than a year -- after a lifetime without such accidents -- I must report that there's nothing charming about it. Which is not to say all my crashes weren't learning experiences. I am fortunate that I get so many chances to say it could've been worse.
ACCIDENT NO. 1: Rt. 9, Tarrytown, N.Y., dusk
He was going thirty while I, setting out through a newly minted green light in rush hour traffic, had just hit 10 miles an hour. By the time the idiot in the Honda Civic explained that he had dropped a quarter and was in the process of looking for it when he rammed squarely into the back of the Chevy Cruze Eco I was driving, the headrests had already protected our necks and a GM OnStar advisor had already called to see if we were OK. Happily, we were. Though my brain felt scrambled the headache subsided within a day.
The Cruze emerged from the shunt fully drivable and only slightly worse for wear; a little freshening of the rear bumper would be required and a look at the car's electrical system would not go amiss (a few warning lights wouldn't go out,) but, like me and my family, it was still up and running.
On the other hand, the 2004 Civic was airbags- deployed, hood-folded, comprehensively crumpled and crumbled. It had turned its wheels under its own steam for the last time. No injuries, though, except hurt pride.
For regarding the guy who hit us — just beginning a maiden date with an older woman he'd met online — it had quickly become back to Match.com time. As first impressions go, the one he'd served up was truly memorable, but not in a good way.
Takeaway No. 1: Look out for what's ahead, folks.
Being a committed operator of old cars, I remember thinking the first time I got hit from the rear, how fortunate I was to have been driving a modern test car, rather than something antique, such as what I often drive. Both from a safety perspective and the selfish one that makes me hate to have my things — especially the good stuff — ruined, I'll crash a new car every time.
But somehow I'd managed to make it through a lifetime of driving without having ever been rear-ended prior to the Cruze incident. And if this was going to be my only brush with this most unexpected variety of accident, so be it.
ACCIDENT No. 2: I-87 W/Tappan Zee Bridge (Hudson River, near Tarrytown, N.Y.), 10pm
Whoops, spoke too soon. My relative good fortune was short-lived.
Indeed, things were quite a bit more upsetting when I got hit from behind last winter by a Japanese-made, cab-over box truck, while driving on New York's Tappan Zee Bridge one evening at roughly 40 miles per hour. Problem was, white-cube man behind me was driving 65 and not looking where he was going. And this time I was driving an old car — a 1966 Lancia Fulvia Coupe, my favorite among many I own. As straight and original an example as any I've ever seen, I'd pursued it for five years before buying it in 1995, then treated it to a sympathetic restoration before putting another 17,000 miles on it. It was, as Road & Track might have once said, highly roadworthy.
"Was" is the operative term, because within seconds my 46-year-old dream ride had been rocket-sledded into the bridge's concrete central divider, scraping hard along it for 100 yards or more before I could recover and make it to the right lane, which was doubling scarily as a breakdown lane (no shoulder) with three accident aftermaths in progress at that very moment. As we locals in Rockland County, NY, know too well, the Tappan Zee has been positively identified as the tarmac-ed cousin of the Bermuda Triangle.