Crashing cars

A weird post this one, but it’s a reflection on how much the event described affected me. Two weeks ago, on the Saturday morning, I was in a positive mood but, for reasons I’m not going into, my wife was not. I know, I thought, I’ll take her car in to be washed and detailed and that’ll make her happy. I knew the car wash place I was going to, it’s about six miles south of where we live, and they do a good job.

Two to three miles into the trip, I was coming south on Lexington Drive and had a green light to cross Research Parkway. Which I did. And was slammed on the passenger side by someone going east on Research and running the red light. The car was spun 180° by the impact. The passenger side airbags blew out.

Miraculously, the car still “worked”, and I reversed to the curb. At which point, I dialed 911 and reported the accident. Moments later the fire engine arrived (the station is just west on Research, so very close) and they checked me for any medical issues. Luckily I wasn’t hurt: the point of impact was on the passenger side, but it would have been worse for me if it had been on the driver’s side. A couple of minutes later the Community Service Officer arrived and she handed me an accident form to fill out. A few minutes later a police officer arrived and gathered the information he needed. He issued a citation to the other driver for driving through a red light, who had admitted guilt for the accident anyway, so his insurance will pay for it all.

The best place to put the car until it could be towed was the opposite corner: there’s  a Walgreens there, so the car park for it was ideal. With flashing lights, the CSO escorted me gingerly driving there across Research, and we waited for the tow truck.

During that time, I got to thinking about other accidents I’d been involved in. For car hitting car ones, there have been two others for me, so in a sense I’ve been lucky. The previous one was more of a ding: I was driving around Sloane Square in Chelsea (in 1991 or 1992?), turned up Sloane Street, stopped because someone was using the zebra crossing there, but the BMW behind was a little slow in stopping and hit my car. My Volvo 1800S no less. Yeah, thanks, mate. Luckily that one was an easy fix: apart from fixing the minor dent, I got new rear bumpers out of his insurance. For fun, the place I had it repaired were able to make the chrome V, O, L, V, O letters on the back into gold-colored ones for free (in fact the bloke who currently now owns it, still has the gold letters there!).

The first accident though was just bizarre. I’d only just got the car, September 1979, my first one, a secondhand green Ford Cortina Mark III, probably six or seven years old. If I remember rightly it cost me £595, but don’t hold me to that. A month or so later, a couple of friends and I decided to visit every Young’s pub in London. At the time, they had this competition whereby if you visited all their pubs (and had a beer in each, with a card to be stamped so that they could check) you got a free tour around their brewery, the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth. We’d got our competition cards and this was the first trip: I’d worked out three Young’s pubs nearby that we could visit in one evening. Having picked them up (I think it was my friends Phil Allen and Stuart Kelly), we set off to find Wood House in Dulwich, our first point of call. We were coming up Kirkdale to the junction with Sydenham Hill. It was a weird junction in those days: imagine a capital T, with Sydenham Hill making the right angle at that junction, yet you had right of way going straight on across the bar of the T from Kirkdale. Which is what I did (completely forgetting from my perusal of my London AtoZ that I should have turned left to go to Wood House). The car coming in the opposite direction turned right following Sydenham Hill, bang in front of me. And bang it was. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt (tsk, tsk) and banged my head on the windscreen. Phil had been wearing his so that was good, but Stuart just piled into the back of my and Phil’s seats.

The other driver was in the wrong, sure, but both he and I only had third-party insurance. In those days, if no one was hurt (or admitted to it), all you had to do was exchange info and report it later. Neither car was drivable, so we just parked where we could until we could arrange for towing. He had two elderly passengers, both in the back. He also had a walkie-talkie radio (no cell phones back then!) and within a couple of minutes, as we were exchanging our info, another car drew up and picked up the elderly couple. I reported the accident to the police the next day when I could phone up (that’s how it worked in those days!) and thought no more of it.

A few days later though, I had a visit from the police at my bedsit in Herne Hill. It seems the two versions they’d had of what happened differed, even down to the car that the other driver had been driving. The elderly passengers were not mentioned at all in the other driver’s report. And then I twigged it as I was reiterating the events to the police officer: the other driver was driving as a mini-cab without registration or insurance, hence the radio, the two passengers in the back, them being picked really quickly, and the attempt to lie in the report. Maybe it’s just me misremembering from 40 years distance, but I’m pretty sure the policeman rubbed his hands in glee.

Unfortunately, that was it, I never heard any more about the case. My dad drove down that weekend from Bedford, and we towed the car back (yep: we towed it 60 miles, through the center of London as well! Bloody nutters!): he knew of a repair place near where they lived that would fix my car for cheap. I’d immediately learned to wear my seatbelt, what an idiot. Phil, Stuart and I just gave up on the Young’s pub competition. I never went to Wood House, the pub, ever, so have no idea what it’s like. A couple of years later, I was leaning back in the driver’s seat to get some coins out of my pocket to pay a meter, and the seat back broke and I was suddenly lying flat – it seems Stuart banging into it had weakened it somewhat (and, my, it was fun driving the car until I got to a scrapyard and bought another driver’s seat from a wreck).

Meanwhile, back here and now, my wife’s car is now disassembled, and the collision repair place is improving on the repair estimate that the insurance appraiser made. She’s driving a rental car, which she hates. Hopefully we get her car back “soon”.

Acura TLX damage

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