My mother had called me asking me to bring her laptop to her classroom. She’s a teacher and the school was holding an in-service. It was Halloween and I had been helping set up the house for all the young kids coming by for candy that night. Her school is in the neighboring town, about a 15 minutes drive on the highway. My mom had the van and my dad was using the pickup. I called my grandmother and asked to borrow her car.
My grandmother’s car was ancient by my standards. The brakes made noise and it still used a cassette player. I’ve always been cautious about my driving. I would refuse to even touch my phone while at the wheel and my siblings complain about my insistence on seatbelts. That day, however, it paid off.
I was driving back home when the radio began to falter. There aren’t a lot of stations that work near my hometown and it’s normal for them to give out every so often. Annoyed, I began fiddling with the radio trying to find a better station. It only takes two seconds of distraction for an accident to happen. While trying to change the radio station, I began to go off onto the shoulder. From day one my dad had always told me what to do in that situation. He would say, “Slow down and then carefully get back on the road. It’s better to drive in the grass for a few seconds than to over-correct”.
Despite his constant lesson, I didn’t listen that day. Instead, I freaked out and pulled the wheel hard to the left. I veered into the opposite lane and got scared. I tried getting back but it only made things worse. The car started rolling on a major highway. The right side of the vehicle hit the ground so hard it flipped in mid-air before landing on the wheels. I had even managed to take out a road sign.
Despite the scare, I was extremely lucky. Not only was I wearing my seatbelt but the airbags had failed to deploy. Most would see this negatively but I tend to sit too close to the steering wheel. Had it of gone off it likely would have damaged my face or chest. Additionally, the glass had just recently been replaced. Not a single window broke, preventing any debris from hurting me.
My adrenaline was rushing and I was terrified. I called my mother first wanting to believe that she could make it all go away. When she realized I hadn’t called the police she made me hang up notify them. I remember the dispatcher talking to me trying to keep me calm. I was becoming quite hysterical and needed someone to help me think straight.
It didn’t take long for the sheriff and ambulance to arrive. Despite the fact that I was walking around on my own they paramedics insisted I go with them to the hospital. They explained that the adrenaline and shock could be preventing me from feeling any injuries. I had to stand still and be tied to a backboard before being carried into the ambulance.
Initially, I didn’t want to go the hospital, I was worried that the medical bills would hurt my family financially. My co-workers had told me just how expensive a ride in an ambulance could be. I didn’t know it at the time but my family had put a lot of thought into their health insurance. After my mom’s cancer, we had learned the importance of expecting the unexpected. My family had prioritized having the best coverage we could afford. Because of this, the family’s health insurance paid for a large portion of my ambulance ride, MRI, and related bills. Afterward they told me I was fine and that I was lucky because my seatbelt had likely saved my life.
Even with my luck, there was still one major problem. It wasn’t my car, it was my grandmother’s. Because my hometown is so far from any major city cars are a necessity. Without one there is very little anyone can do, and I had just totaled her only vehicle. She told me that she didn’t care, she would say that she was just happy that I was okay. It didn’t make my guilt go away.
It wasn’t long after the accident that she heard back from her insurance company. Apparently, her policy was really great and the age of the car helped her out. She received enough money from her policy to put a down payment on a new vehicle. This one was much newer and featured technology my family would ultimately have to teach to her.
It’s been almost 2 years since I destroyed my grandmother’s car and my family still gives me grief about it. Even now I have a lot of trouble driving long distances, especially on that stretch of highway. But I like to believe that my accident and the insurance covering the vehicle paved the way for my grandmother to buy a new (and safer) vehicle than she had before. Perhaps every cloud really does have a silver lining.
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