Prior to being part of an accident, all I knew about car crashes was learned from the television commercials advising us not to have one. And I’m exactly the kind of person who takes note of the many messages those commercials have delivered over the years.
I can hum most of the ‘drive to the conditions’ song, I know about the importance of the two-second rule (only a fool breaks it), and that if things start moving in super-slowmo at intersections, it’s useless to get out of your car and plead with the other driver because it’s already too late, especially if there’s a creepy-looking dude on one of the corners with a giant circus-esque spinning wheel.
None of that saved me from ploughing into the car in front of me and shouting, ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!’ as it happened.
Let’s clear a couple of things up before we go any further.
First, it was entirely my fault. The police agree with me and have duly issued a $150 fine. This is one of those things I did not know about. In the commercials they don’t mention the fine.
Second, no one was badly hurt. I had second-degree burns on my left hand and some bruises and bleeding on my forearm, but as many, many people have said to me, many, many times in the Aftermath, things could have been a lot worse, right? The burns were caused by the airbags. This is another thing I didn’t know about.
I have seen, in high-def, big-screen slow motion the damage that can be done to glasses and noses and brains when a vehicle is going too fast, but when I ran into the car in front of me on that very wet afternoon my car was doing only about 40kph. Upon impact, the airbags launched with astonishing ferocity, and it was the friction and heat they produced that burned my arm. My glasses, nose and (as far as we can tell so far) brain remained untouched.
Another thing I did not know is that, when the airbags fling themselves forward, blasting through plastic and scalding skin, they also release smoke. So much, in fact, that it fills the car, making it impossible to see anything. I remember this most clearly because it was the very beginning of, and the scariest moment in, the Aftermath.
I did not know, either, that for the first two hours of the Aftermath I would feel invincible and euphoric. My advice is that if you’re involved in an accident and you clearly have burns and blood on your arm, let the nice ambulance lady have a look, even if you’re so high on the rush you feel like you could fly home.
An aside. Because this is Wellington, the guy I crashed into is an old mate that I haven’t seen for years. It’s a small town, after all. “If you wanted to catch up for a beer,” he said as the Aftermath was getting started, “you could have just called.” I laughed and laughed until the adrenalin stopped flowing. Good feelings gone.
The lesson? Drive to the conditions, don’t be a fool re the two-second rule, and avoid areas where digital slowmo appears to be going on.