Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We're No. #1!! Or #7...

I'll link to, since that's where I get my local news: According to an annual report by Allstate Insurance, the District of Columbia has the very worst drivers in the country. Alexandria, VA, where I do a good deal of my driving, is ranked 7th worst. I've been in my share of accidents in the area, probably more than the average person nationwide. I can think of three collisions that I've been in just in the past 5 years. I'll regale you with the hilarity — or pain, depending on your point of view.

Collision #1, Unreported in Alexandria. I was waiting at a red light on a single-lane road with one car in front of me when I noticed that the car behind me, with Pennsylvania plates (Philadelphia has the 6th-worst drivers in the country), had its right-turn signal on and the driver was motioning for me to give him room on the right. I was accomodating, and scooted up as close as I could to the car in front. He still didn't make the turn; the car at the light saw him and tried to scoot up too. It was a long light and right-turn-signal guy was close enough for me to see the circus going on in his car. He was talking on his cell phone while he had a gigantic fold-out highway map across his lap, accordioning into the passenger seat. In the back, there was a large dog, a preschool-aged kid in a carseat, and two more large dogs in the hatchback area.

When the light changed to green, the car in front of me immediately made a left and I continued straight. Then I heard a car on overdrive coming up on my right. I looked to see what it was (because there wasn't any room before I got across the intersection) and it was THAT GUY! Turn-signal guy had crept around my right side into the crosswalk so that he could attempt to turbo past me and cut me off before I cleared the intersection!

I hit him. I didn't have an option. He was cutting me off inches from my vehicle like an a$$hat and there was no room to stop, even at 10 MPH.

We both stopped on the other side of the road to assess the damage. He barrelled out of his car and started screaming at me, what was my problem? etc. and I just let him scream, didn't respond at all. He eventually petered out and told me that he didn't want to make a claim. I was super relieved, because even though he was the one driving like he had a hive of bees in his car, I hit him and probably would have been charged with fault.

Collision #2, Icy Alexandria road. The D.C. metro area has pretty unpredictable weather and typically is caught completely unawares when the temperature drops to freezing. Coming from the Chicago area and never having had a snow-related collision in my 25 years as a driver, I felt superior to all those silly people skidding out on ice and pulling off the road when a dusting of snow came along. Weather babies!

I had just dropped my kids at childcare one January morning and there had been no snow whatsoever on the drive out. As I was leaving the garage, I saw that it had started to flurry, but not a big deal to me, right? I know snow. I came up to a busy intersection, stopped, then turned right onto one of my favorite less-traveled roads to get around the typical congestion. There was a car ahead of me, pausing at a stop sign, but I had plenty of room to brake. I braked. My car kept moving. I pushed the brake to the floor; my car didn't slow. My car was sliding on ice covered with the light snow! I quickly steered my car to the right in an attempt to avoid hitting the car that was pulling away from its stop, but instead managed to completely plow over the stop sign and still hit the other guy's bumper. Sigh.

Collision #3, Rear-ended on 495. I was running an errand that required a short trip on the Beltway. I slowly crawled onto an exit ramp that was crowded with other cars until it was my time to merge onto 495. Whew, I could finally accelerate! But, wait, no. There was another collision right past the ramp with two cars and a policeman in the shoulder. I decelerated a bit to give them some clearance, as it's poor form to cruise full-Beltway-speed past a pedestrian on the highway shoulder, especially a cop.

Unfortunately, the woman driving behind me didn't see the accident because she was too busy looking behind her for a gap in oncoming traffic so she could merge into the lane beyond my car. She slammed into my left bumper at high speed and her car spiraled into the two far lanes on the Beltway. Miraculously for her, the other drivers managed to avoid her car. I was still in the merge lane, now missing my left-turn and -brake lights which had been smashed to oblivion. My car was still driveable, but the entire front end of her car had fallen off. You could still clearly see her Maryland plates (Baltimore has the 2nd-worst drivers).

So now, the poor cop had to deal with two collisions in the same spot. He called for backup.

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