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September 14, 2009

Saying Goodbye to my Totaled Honda Accord

1998_honda_accord I said goodbye to my dear old Honda Accord recently, after visiting it at the impound lot for the last time and removing the last bits of my belongings from within its interior. This junkyard, with thousands of other scrapped cars just like it, has become the Accord's final resting place after an unfortunate accident rendered it undriveable and the insurance company deemed it unrepairable.

It was an ordinary Sunday morning, and I was driving to meet my not-quite-ex-husband and children at church. (We meet each Sunday morning at the 8am service, and then share a family breakfast together before swapping the kids for the afternoon.) I was enjoying the early morning lack of traffic down the boulevard, and had caught the flow so that green lights illuminated each intersection ahead of me.

Barely two blocks from my destination, I saw the light ahead turn green, and as approached an SUV that had been stopped at the red in the left lane, I was surprised to see a Toyota Camry making a left turn from the opposite direction, directly in front of me. Immediately, I stood on the brakes, and felt the pulse of the ABS, but with barely a car length between us, I could see there was no way I would get stopped in time. With a line of cars parked on the right, and the SUV (who saw the entire incident unfold right before his eyes) on my left, I couldn't even swerve to avoid him, so I gripped the steering wheel, and prepared for the impact.

It appeared I was going to broadside him in a complete 90-degree collision, but the angle of his turn made it more of a 60-degree impact. Our two vehicles came to rest in the intersection, nearly parallel to each other: a yin and yang of my dark blue Accord facing eastbound and his silver blue Camry facing westbound.

Crunched_accordFortunately, my airbags did not deploy. My right fender, front bumper, and right headlight were smashed and crunched up against the right front wheel, and the hood was folded up by the impact. The passenger side of the other guy's car absorbed a large amount of my vehicle's energy, displayed by the caved-in front and rear doors.

I got out of the car in a rage, yelling at the other driver for his stupid maneuver, my fury fueled by my knowledge that I would be leaving on a business trip the next day; the first of several that would have me traveling 12,000 miles over the upcoming two weeks. (This was going to be a very bad time to deal with the logistics of an accident.) And I could see by the extent of the damage that my 10-year-old Accord with nearly 150,000 miles was likely to be declared a total loss by the insurance company.

The expletives were flying loud and abundant, and the other driver just looked at me. He didn't say sorry. He didn't ask if I was okay. He didn't defend himself against the curses I was invoking upon him. He just stood there.

At that moment, it occurred to me, and I asked him: "You don't speak English, do you?" The driver just shook his head. I unleashed another barrage of profanity, as I understood the situation was getting worse.

At that moment, the driver of the vehicle that had been stopped in the left lane came over to offer his assistance. He called the police for me, as my hands were shaking so hard I could hardly hold my cell phone, much less dial it. In fact, I was so frazzled, that I couldn't even figure out how to call my husband to let him know that I wasn't going to make it to church.

Fortunately, my husband pulled up a few moments later; and when the tow truck arrived, he and our boys transferred the detritus inside my car's many nooks and crannies into his trunk.

A policewoman arrived rather quickly to take a report. She interviewed us separately to get details, aided by a stranger who helped translate for the other driver. Turns out the 30-year-old man had just recently moved here from another country, and only had his license for fewer than two weeks. He clearly didn't know the right-of-way rules, and told the officer that he thought I would stop.

Crunched_camry He said he saw me coming and made a left turn directly in front of me because he thought I would stop! Thankfully, I hadn't been speeding. I'm not sure whether the little old man who was sitting in his passenger seat has any idea how lucky he is to be alive and unhurt. A nose-on view of the Camry showed that his seat had been moved several inches by the impact. He had to climb out through the driver's side because his door was smashed shut by the collision. With the extent of the damage across the entire passenger side of the car, I wonder whether the other car was also totaled.

The tow truck driver loaded my car onto his flatbed, and swept up the broken glass leaving no evidence of the accident behind. My car's ABS did its job as best it could, so there weren't any skidmarks to betray the collision.

And as sad as I am to say goodbye to my long and loyal Accord, this storm cloud has many silver linings:

  • -I'm thankful my airbags did not deploy - at 10 years old, these first-generation airbags are not known for delicate detonation and can cause their own assortment of injuries.
  • -I'm thankful the other driver was properly insured, and his insurance company accepted responsibility within a few days. The settlement on my car was quite fair, and I am saving the money as a down payment on a new Ford Fiesta when they arrive in dealerships in May 2010.
  • -I'm thankful my not-quite-ex husband is being kind enough to loan me his 2002 Odyssey to drive until I am able to buy my next car. The plan allows us to keep the minivan in the family until my 16-year-old son can receive his driver's license next year.
  • -I'm thankful that I wasn't speeding and that the only injuries were my aching neck from the whiplash effect, and bruises on my hands from gripping the steering wheel.
  • -I'm very thankful for the kindness of the witness who stayed on the scene for 45 minutes to offer his assistance, make phonecalls, and give reports to help a total stranger. It was a Sunday morning, and who knows where he was going or how this sidetracked his day, but I was a basketcase, and he was immensely helpful.

I had to go back to the car one last time, as I realized in my haste and shock on the day of the collision that I had left a few items behind: CD's in the changer, new floormats, sunglasses in the holder. There I said my last goodbyes to my dependable old family hauler, and later that day, I mailed off the title and spare keys to the insurance company.

Rest in peace, Accordion.

Brandy_schaffels_s By Brandy Schaffels Editor

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