By on June 23, 2014

Well, I nearly died today.

I was driving on a winding one lane road, when  a silver mid-2000’s Dodge Ram Club Cab broke through the double yellow, and swerved halfway into my lane.

My car was a 7 year old Toyota Corolla, and if it weren’t for a last split-second swerve, I would have been dead. No question about it.

The surprising thing about the experience was my lack of a frazzled state immediately afterwards. I drove a couple hundred feet more, thanked God, did a U-turn at the nearby precinct headquarters, and dialed 911.

For all I knew it could have been anything that caused the near death experience. Texting, drugs, a spilled drink, a medical emergency… anything. But I surely wasn’t going to let that vehicle remain on the road without police involvement.

caught up with the truck enough to see it turn right onto a dead end street and stayed on the phone with the dispatcher for about 10 more minutes. The driver stayed in the car the entire time. No words between us. Nothing but me and a dispatcher, who told me that three police cars were already on their way. I kept the Corolla a good 700 feet away on the top of a large hill. I wasn’t going to play hero. But at the same time, I was betting that Atlanta’s 95 degree weather with 90% humidity would discourage the driver from coming out of his car.

Sure enough, he just stayed where he was at. 

Once the police showed up, I told them the story I just told you. They confronted what turned out to be a guy who had sweated out of his shirt. He was animate, allegedly he was working on the home where he was parked, and it took a good five minutes or so before the police were willing to let him speak with me.

“I’m sorry. I just spilled my drink and I know I crossed that yellow line. I’m really sorry.”

“I just wanted to make sure you weren’t impaired, or texting, or something like that.”

We shook hands, and it seemed like every 15 to 20 seconds, he was apologizing and trying to shake my hand again. I wish I had told one of the police officers to corroborate the spilled drink and other parts of his story. They don’t add up now. But to be honest, all I was thinking then was that my family could have experienced the worst day of our collective lives. His alibi was not my concern.

I thanked the officers and got the hell out of there. And now, well, I’m a bit frazzled. A neverending march of random questions goes through your mind when you experience something like this.

Do I stop driving compacts? Do I share what happened with my family? There’s a life lesson here, and I’m going to have to dwell on the ramifications for quite a while.

I’ve experienced plenty of close calls before. When I worked the Atlanta auction circuit I used to drive over 40,000 miles a year through three states as a ringman, and later, an auctioneer. But I never experienced anything quite like this in terms of a split second difference between life and death.  A 40 mph head on would have made me a corpse, and my family is sometimes the only damn thing I give a shit about in this world. I would rather endure the trials of Job than to leave them in such a terrible state.

This is why I like the idea of  self-driving cars and crash avoidance systems in general. I love cars, but if I had to make a deal with an angel and trade in my keys for the chance to simply stay on this Earth and be with my family, I would pack up our belongings and move away from the ex-urbs of Atlanta in a millisecond. New York City, Amsterdam, Costa Rica. Anywhere I could walk would be fine with me.

I need to get some perspective here folks, and maybe a good story or two would be the right prescription. So let me ask you, what was your closest call? More importantly, what impact did it have on the future of your driving?

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153 Comments on “Question Of The Day: What Was Your Closest Call?...”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Driving home after an office Christmas party. I was in my early 20’s.
    Late night, just cold enough to lightly frost the roads. I had some drinks over the course of the night but felt fine.

    On the on-ramp to the little recently built in-town freeway I lost control and spun my Cordoba. Two full revolutions. It didn’t touch anything. No damage or impact at all.

    Went home shaking. Nothing wakes you up or focuses your attention like a ‘near death’ experience.

    A few hours later I went back to the scene. Had measured the car and then measured the width of the ramp.

    Let’s just say that based on those measurements, what happened was a physical impossibility.

    I then refused to drive if I have touched even a drop. That progressed in a few years to full abstention. So a substantial change in lifestyle due to one close call.

    • 0 avatar

      You quit drinking – ok. But did you switch to mid/full size cars with TOP+ safety picks?

    • 0 avatar

      Steve, my good man! You’re an auto-auction guy no doubt familiar with such necessities as biohazard warnings on interior components and hair left in the remains of the windshield. I mention this because as scary as it was (no doubt!) usually your vehicle must be completely relegated to scrap afterwards or it wasn’t really a near-death experience. ;)

      But I completely understand where you’re coming from, give it 6 months and you’ll be fine.

      I’ve had at least 5 truly near death crashes or near crashes that would’ve been 100% fatal.

      the most SPECTACULAR was the 60 mph rollover crash in my mom’s 1984 300zx turbo, where I hit a massive telephone pole….while upside-down during the roll….AND it hit in front of the left rear wheel but not into the side of the door. I was unconscious at the time but later I could stand in the “hole” it had created in the sheet metal. No idea, Guardian Angel really.

      Then there was the drunk driver hitting me on the sportbike (ruptured kidney and undiagnosed internal bleeding), the t-bone where I was hit in the drivers door of my CRX by a redlight runner (unconscious again,roof removed and medflighted out), the 84 vette rollover into a creek and escape while fuel leaked out all over the place (new fuel pump and old gas cap assembly).

      And those are only a few of the many occasions on which I nearly met my death, an experience which I don’t hesitate strongly to recommend. – (without google/bing anyone? anyone? ;)

      The closest ‘near miss’ that still gives me CHILLS though involved the tractor and bush-hog.

      Not really worth repeating in detail for an auto blog but my first mistake involved jumping “off” the moving tractor when I backed into a yellow-jackets nest….the second (and nearly fatal) mistake was running beside it and jumping back “on” to the now rapidly forward-accelerating tractor before it plunged over a ledge and into a creek on our property (because I knew my dad would be mad at me if I crashed the tractor).

      Even though it was 25 years ago I’m sitting here in the Memphis airport bar with the hair on my neck standing up and a little shaky.

      Maybe it’s because for the other crashes I had nothing to say about them, they “just happened” so quickly and there you were, just instincts and reaction time.

      But the tractor and bush-hog…..whew….I had about a half-second to DECIDE what to do and I made the decision to run beside it and jump past the huge rolling tire onto the step, trying to grab the wheel to pull myself up, if I had missed or stumbled in the rough field?
      Whew. chills again. Worst case I’d have probably bled out alone in a field with my leg and arm missing or if I was “lucky” it would’ve been over quickly.

      Scares the shit out of me like nothing else.

      Some folks may disagree but I have truly had a charmed life considering the things I’ve done or been involved with. Years later it’s just a funny story but life is a crazy ride for sure, you’ve gotta enjoy it while you can! :)

  • avatar

    Dallas Tollway, I’m in the left lane and a women driving a black Crown Vic tries to merge from the center lane to the right lane almost cutting in front of a car already in her path. She sees the vehicle and over compensates, whipping her sedan across my lane directly in front of me. The Crown Vic veers up onto 2 wheels and the next thing I see is her roof and hood bearing down on me from above. Thanks to BMW anti-lock brakes I manage to pull up as her car fortunately drops back onto it’s wheels, my front bumper literally touching her fender!

    Thankfully (and miraculously) no one was injured although I was interviewed by the TxHP later as she then claimed to have been rear-ended!

    • 0 avatar

      Our close call was on a Tuesday in August 2011 at 11:30 PM on Hwy 395 in southern California. Driving to our “weekend” home on a Tuesday night was the first mistake; we simply drove that evening to take an owner’s manual to one of my dealerships to help a customer. Driving to the desert was an additional 70 miles and we would have to come back very early the next morning. Anyway, we shopped at Kohl’s first, the stopped at Winco in Victorville to get food in advance. As I left the parking lot I remember telling my wife “I don’t want to drive on D Street tonight, too many head-on collision markers!”. Instead we went down Roy Rogers Drive and angled to one street, then another and eventually made a right turn on 395. Within twenty minutse we were climbing one of the twenty hills between Victorville and Shadow Mountain Road when I saw headlights directly in front of me. Your first reaction is absolute disbelief and “what’s happening?”. I recall veering right and then feeling the crush of the collision. Our 2004 Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan was totaled, the driver’s door and left front wheel torn from the body. We must have slid 200 feet until we came to a scraping stop while vehicles began to pull over to see how we were.
      The other driver was a twenty year old HDLL (High Desert Low Life) who was out looking for more beer. He had been admonished by other drivers not to drive drunk twenty miles up the highway. He had then stopped to cover his license plate with a piece of cloth to hide it from other drivers. His 2001 Dodge Dakota was totaled as well but he tried to keep driving to get away. He and one other scumbag both ran off into the desert and were captured three hours later in front of a closed liquor store. He tested positive for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and alcohol. His actions nearly killed the motorcycle rider behind us. Today he is still a fugitive, having posted bail at the courthouse.
      When the Sheriff asked him why he was out driving drunk he stated “We were looking for more beer.” Originally both perps made up a story about another driver named “Jason” who was really behind the wheel but the other witnesses identified the actual two and that lie was shelved.
      You really have to watch out for the MethHeads in the Inland Empire!

  • avatar

    1) Fell asleep at the wheel as a 18 yr old on I-80 just outside of Joliet, IL. Was up too late with my high school sweet heart the prior night. Went into the median and ramped an emergency vehicle U turn that stopped me from going into oncoming traffic.

    2) Several instances like you described, except I swerved out of harms way. I didn’t chase the vehicle down. Why the hell would I do that?

  • avatar

    Steven, not to be picky, but isn’t a road w/ a double yellow by definition a 2-lane road?

    Any true one lane road I’ve ever seen would probably have no painted lines at all and would only allow two vehicles to pass if both slowed down and hung a couple wheels into the dirt.

  • avatar

    I’ve had two.

    In spring 1999, On Route 40 West in North Carolina. Was on my way to Wilkesboro for a booty call. I was in a GMC Sonoma, going 75 or 80 with the cruise control on. The truck had the ZQ8 package which was lowered with summer tires.

    It was pouring rain.

    Back then, I didn’t know the things I know now. Summer tires, RWD, cruise control, slick roads… you don’t get birthday cake from that recipe.

    I remember the truck feeling “floaty” a couple times. No clue what that was, so I disregarded it. The 3rd time was the charm. I spun out and did a 720, right there on the interstate.

    I am alive for 2 reasons: 1) There was no traffic beside me. 2) There was no guard rail or barrier on the left side of the road.

    I came to a complete stop in the grass median, still facing the right direction.

    The other time was a year or so earlier, on Highway 58 eastbound in Brunswick County VA. I was on my way to work early in the morning, still dark outside. An empty logging truck was attempting to make a u-turn from the westbound into the eastbound. I didn’t see anything until I was almost right on it and made out the tiny circular reflectors on the side of the trailer. All I could do was slam on brakes, spin the wheel hard clockwise, and hope for the best. I wound up in a driveway, miraculously. I might have survived going into a ditch if the driveway wasn’t there, but if I had kept straight into that logging trailer I would have gotten beheaded.

    So trust me, I know the feeling. I’m glad you’re still with us Steve.

  • avatar

    My dad was teaching me to drive on some rural roads in NW Arkansas when I had a similar experience. A half-ton pickup with a flat bed rolled around a corner on my side of the road and self-preservation instincts saved us in the form of a last-second swerve. This was way before cell phones and likely as not, local authorities wouldn’t have done anything anyway. I was too young and inexperienced to have any permanent impact. I’ve been run into by other people since then, although at much slower speeds. I typically assume that everyone else on the road is trying to kill me and drive accordingly. I like to have some power, a lot of brake, and lateral agility to save my hide in traffic.

    The risk of death due to driving a small car as opposed to a large car is one of the smaller risks we face these days. In fact, larger cars are less agile and potentially larger risks in scenarios like this since they change direction at slower rates, occupy greater volumes, and consequences of sudden accelerations on larger vehicles are less recoverable than on smaller vehicles.

    In any case, glad this story has a happy ending.

  • avatar

    Does getting shot at count? If so, East Side of Detroit, last year. The car next to me got jacked and bullets just missed my car.

  • avatar

    I had two experiences, both in so called compacts. I once nearly plowed into at least an eight point buck in 2000. Fortunately for me I had at the time recently replaced pads and rotors in my 92 Cav and I was able to come to a complete stop in time to avoid hitting the buck, who simply stood for a few seconds staring at me before taking off. I may have been ok in that instance wearing my belt, although the Cav did not have an airbag IIRC. The second involved being t-boned by an 89 Accord in a 96 Escort coupe as the passenger of the Escort. That one was close, without seat belts I’d be dead (no air bag in that instance either).

    Additional: Forgot one, two years ago I was zooming up 79 toward Zeilie at 70+ in a 65, and a complete jackass in a CR-V -who was parked on the shoulder- darts out in front of me from said shoulder. I hit the brakes so hard I think I damaged the rear rotors as they kept making a screeching noise every time I braked from then out until replaced them a month later. If there was ever a time for a cop to witness something this was it, that maniac should have been put in front of the magistrate that day.

    I’ll paraphrase something I read on brickboard last fall in the 850/S70 forum. This gentleman bought his S70 new in ’99 and listed all of the stupid stuff that went wrong with it in the ten years he had it. He then sold it to his son, who he claimed later walked away from a 70mph accident with minor injuries. He concluded it with something to the effect of, what is really important to you? I say switch back to Volvos Steve, just get a new one every year or 20K and eat the FWD Volvo specific costs they would be deductible anyway would they not?

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I’m thinking about a car with a lot of very high strength steel.

      • 0 avatar

        Late-late model Volvo is going to be a serious consideration for me on my next major automotive purchase (I’m thinking 04-08 S60). What else is out there worth buying used/owning for a time which fits the prereqs? You’ll go bankrupt putting 20K miles per annum on late model Teutonic stuff. I say Volvo or at the very least Volvo derived Fords.

        • 0 avatar

          This is one of the reasons my wife drives an MKT. It is basically a two in a half ton Volvo wagon.

          • 0 avatar

            +1 for my wife’s Flex. Sure, there are drawbacks to the weight (accelerated depecition was not one of them) but damn if they don’t feel solid without feeling ponderous the way higher vehicles do.

        • 0 avatar

          Steve, I have put 20K+ miles on late-late model Volvos every year from 2007 onwards, and I haven’t gone bankrupt. Drove an S60 to 165K miles, sold it to a guy who drives it every day today, and bought a 2010 XC70 coming off a lease. You won’t go wrong taking this route.

          Both my Volvos have been very reliable.

        • 0 avatar

          In late 2009 I was laid off and my ex boss drove away with my company vehicle. At the recommendation of a neighbor, I looked at 1998 S70’s and bought one with 72k miles. I liked it so much I picked up a second one a year later as my daughters needed something to drive. Safety was on my mind because a good friend lost a neice in an auto accident. She was driving an Accord, crossed the grass median and plowed into a tree. Passenger survived. Your milage may vary. I have performed some maintenance on my own to keep costs down (brake pads, replaced headlamp assembly, fuel filter, oil changes, blower motor, window control switch) and I have replaced driver’s seats with junkyard finds. I also found a great Volvo trained mechanic, so I avoid dealers bending me over.

          Six months ago, I junked my second S70, too many little issues, I only paid $2400 and put on 35k miles. This car was unloved by the previous owner who drank latte’s which spilled onto the carpet and allowed her kids to use it as a playground. I picked up a 2005 S60 2.5T, it has been pretty great to drive and I would absolutely recommend it to others. You might also be able to find a used S80 with this same 2.5T engine.

      • 0 avatar

        “I’m thinking about a car with a lot of very high strength steel.”

        Someone going the opposite way on a two-lane road will main or kill you no matter what you’re driving. Assuming even in-town speeds of ~50km/h, that’s a lot of kinetic energy you’ll both have to disperse. Unless one of you is driving something with “Peterbilt”, “Kenworth” or such on the grille, both of you are going to the hospital, if not the morgue; the only Volvo that’d save you is something like a Volvo VN.

        If you’re both going 80-100km/h (~160-200km/h net) which is more likely on a suburban or rural road, you’re almost certainly dead.

        This is assuming no one is trying to stop; in your case, it sounds like the driver of the truck was going full-tilt, so we’d be talking front-offset at ~120+. Yes, that’s going to really hurt both of you. A lot.

        I agree with your point: if you want safety, you’re looking at collision avoidance systems across the board: radar/laser-collision detection, pre-braking and, eventually, autonomous cars. Or walking.

        • 0 avatar

          I’m not sure it’s as bad as you’re implying. More than 20 years ago I went out with a medical resident. One night a couple of guys came in who had been in a head-on at some high speed. (I don’t know whether we’re talking 50 or 80 anymore.) Anyway, she said her fellow residents were going on about how amazing airbags were, because thse guys weren’t seriously hurt.

        • 0 avatar
          Mercury Mark 75

          Not to be to nit-picky but the net speed does not matter. The force that each car puts on each other is exactly the same (Netwon’s 3rd law).

          What you want is to be the person in the bigger car with the bigger/better crumple zone. This way your car changes its velocity less and has a longer impulse time therefore lowering your acceleration and the forces on you.

          This is why they can simulate head on and offset car crashes by running cars into brick walls.

        • 0 avatar

          Head-on collisions at reasonably legal speeds are easily survivable provided both vehicles are of similar size and bumper height. I was hit in my ’87 Grand Am by a Dodge Dynasty that suddenly crossed into my lane from the inside of the curve on a 100 km/hr road. It was at night and, as JEFFSHADOW said, it’s quite the experience to have headlights suddenly right in front of you at those speeds. I barely got my brakes on before the impact. I don’t think the other driver braked at all. Had I been in a modern car that can actually pass a crash test, I would have been uninjured, as my only serious injury was my right tibia/fibula being snapped in half and folded under my seat by the displacement of the firewall and floorboard when the roof collapsed. Since it was a frontal offset, a passenger would have been fine with just a seatbelt as that side of the car’s passenger compartment was not compromised. No airbags in that car, and it’s a good thing because there wasn’t room for one between me and the steering wheel at that point.

  • avatar

    Only one stands out as a life and death situation and that was the time I foolishly panicked after hithing a rut in the road hard enough to bounce the rear tires of my 91 LX 5.0 into the air. The rears locked and I immediately spun out when it touched Terra Firma again. I sawed the wheel left and right reacting to the vehicle and finally getting some semblance of control managed to straighten out just before I ran into an escort heading the opposite direction.

    The second incident that stands out in my mind was the time I forgot about the drag radials on my car and took a freshly paved and slightly damp off-ramp at speed. Right as the tire kissed the white line in the curve the “OH SHIT” alarm sounded and I went into a nice double spin. This time I just jammed the brakes and let the ABS and ESC do its thing until I could steer the car again.

    A few years prior I had attended a class at Michelin’s Laurens Proving Grounds and remembered something the instructor said; “Yorr not a drifter or a dirt track racer so don’t act like one. You lose it, just let the car do its thing until you can anticipate how it will react”.

  • avatar

    1994, my roommate and I were driving to a wedding from Rochester NY to Ann Arbor MI. I was driving his late 80’s Pontiac Bonneville. We were about 10 minutes from our destination, on a busy rural two lane highway, third in line behind someone doing 5 below. The guy in front of me was impatient, kept peeking out but there was too much oncoming traffic. He decided to go for it and pulled out to pass when I caught a flash of oncoming headlight in my left eye. I swerved to the right onto the shoulder (and half of someone’s lawn) just as the impatient driver slammed on his brakes and darted back into the lane I just vacated. I slid by him and on the right and jumped back to the left behind the slow driver as the passer’s headlights faded behind us, eventually trailing us at an exceedingly safe distance.

  • avatar

    I’m coming up on two idiots in a red Miata, who are pulling off onto the shoulder with no signal.

    I’m in my 1968 Caprice. 60 MPH, give or take.

    Right as I’m on them, the driver cranks the wheel to pull a U-turn.

    My brakes lock up and I try to keep it straight. The screeching tires gets their attention at the same time, and the two idiots both turn their heads in wide eyed, open mouthed horror at the front end of my car bearing down (literally – brake dive!) on the side of the Miata.

    The guy punches it, amazingly, as I swerve to the right slightly, amazingly, and I slide past his tail with maybe a foot to spare.

  • avatar

    Double yellow crossers, you say? We got ’em here, north of NYC. People are now so fukkin lazy they are crossing the yellow right in front of you. Half the time I see them texting. It infuriates me.

    Closest call? West bound BMW driving into the setting sun didn’t see her red light. If I hadn’t been looking through the line of traffic and noticed that she wasn’t responding to the light, I’d have gotten creamed at about 35mph. I swear my body felt electrified for hours afterward.

    More and more, I don’t want to drive anymore with all these fukktards. I will no longer enter an intersection unless cars are stopped, if I can’t see who is coming.

  • avatar

    1) In the mid-90s, I was driving my Fiat Spider in Atlanta, where I grew up. I was on Hammond Dr. waiting at the light to cross West Paces Ferry Rd., down the street from the governor’s mansion. WPF runs along a ridge line, and Hammond drops off steeply on either side, so there is very little visibility to the sides. My light went green but I waited a few seconds for some readon, during which time a stretch limo blew the red light at about 40mph. I, like Steve, would have been dead.

    It has long been my habit now to check for red-light runners before going through an intersection on a green light. Particularly valuable since I get everywhere by bicycle these days and I am a lot more vulnerable.

    2)Around the same time, I was driving with my school’s FSAE team up I-75 to Detroit. None of us had slept for at least a day in the rush to get the car done, and we were driving in shifts in an Astro van along with the tow vehicle. I was driving through Cincinnati during afternoon rush hour when I fell asleep. I woke up (and so did everybody else) when the van hit the median wall and blew the left front tire. We were phenomenally lucky because not only was no one hurt, there was no damage to the van other than the blown tire.

    Since then, whenever I am on a long trip and I start feeling tired, I pull over and take a nap no matter what.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been hit by a red-light runner, fortunately I was in a Suburban, he in a small Toyota. Well, wasn’t so fortunate for him. Since then I’ve had a couple other close calls at red lights, I always check for cross traffic.

      Couple years ago was going to a wedding with my wife and daughter in the car, two-lane rural highway, and encountered some jackass who’s passing on a blind curve. I had to get off the road completely to miss him, it could have gone very bad. Didn’t really affect me much, although it did reinforce my conviction that driving is serious, dangerous business and you need to f’ing pay attention. Because there’s too many idiots out there who don’t.

  • avatar

    I fell asleep at the wheel, at over 70mph. Woke up as the car was bouncing off the shoulder about to fall into ditch full of rocks with a rough rockface awaiting. I jerked the wheel just enough to skid the front wheels just enough to stay out of the ditch and straightened the wheel instantly. But the car fishtailed and eventually ran into a concrete divider. Didn’t roll over, leave the road, I was alone, and no one else even saw it happen. It never occurred to me to put the brakes on, but I didn’t have much time to think as I tried to recover from the swerving while running out of room. Only minor bumps strains and bruises. 22-year old sedan with no airbags, stability control or modern crash structures. I was extremely lucky, and took my legal lumps without trying to weasel out of anything. Car was written off.

    Counter-measures are: getting enough sleep before driving, really pulling off for a nap if drowsy, chewing gum always available in the console, replacement car has lots of airbags and stability control.

    I also added a Mobileye system, which is an aftermarket lane-tracking, following distance warning etc. system. Hitting the market are similar systems that use smartphones as the camera and computer. Everyone can now equip any car with such systems.

    An important point was that I reevaluated the value of maintaining an old car without modern safety features. To protect both against my errors and the errors of others. What good is it to have some money in the bank if you’re dead or messed up?

  • avatar

    Once I almost rear ended a brand new Tundra, back in 06 or so. I was on Highway 50 approaching a stop light (in my 97 I30) which I didn’t know was red, because I wasn’t paying enough attention. I had been looking off to the left at a closed down store (where I used to work), and when I looked back in front of me (doing around 40 or 45, since I had started coasting for the light) the Tundra was dead stopped maybe 30 feet in front of me. Immediately of course I slam the brakes and the car nose dives. Nope, not going to stop in time – no way. Quick check over my right shoulder (I swear this was all in slow motion now) reveals that magically there’s no car there, so I yank the wheel to the right. I came to a stop with the front of my car lined up to the front of the guys truck, as he stared at me, bewildered and no doubt wondering what was wrong with me.

    Now, I don’t look around so much. And that stop light and intersection no longer exist, so I can’t have that happen again, ha.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, I know that sensation of slow motion all too well. Besides the slow motion, I find it amazing the clarity in which you think. Your mind is like, “ok, first, do this. Now, do that. Good! All you have to do now is…”. Crazy what the mind is capable of when we go into this kind of laser focus.

      • 0 avatar

        A nice side effect was my laser focus for the REST of the day. That happened around 2:00 in the afternoon, and I was still 100% amped up even after dinner that evening.

    • 0 avatar

      Did something similar once. Approaching a yellow light, I assumed the car in front of me would speed up to run it, as did I. but nope, he hit the brakes. I had too much speed to stop, so I jacked to the right to go around him. Barely missed a Mercedes in the right lane.

      I was much younger then, and yes, I used to drive like the idiots I complain about today. Lucky I lived long enough to learn better.

  • avatar

    Driving from a all day fishing and beer drinking trip off the coast of Virginia back to Richmond on old Rt. 64 back in 1965. A 4 lane road with a steep incline off the right shoulder and having extreme difficulty keeping awake from all the sun and beer throughout the day. Fell asleep and wandered off the road into the steep incline doing 65 mph in a 64 Galaxie with the bumps and ruts in the incline it jarred me awake and luckily I kept control of the car and got it back on the highway only to fall asleep again but woke up before wandering off the road again. Stopped and slept for 4 hours and finally made it home.

  • avatar

    Had two such near death experiences. Both times driving a compact, both times came out unscathed. And maybe both times showed a compact ain’t that bad.

    The first one, young, less than 20, university on strike, out in the country having fun. Late at night, drank way too much, decided to have late night driving fun (closed gate community, vacation place, nearly empty because it was not holiday season). In a Fiat Uno, came to a curve, way to fast, hit the brakes late to split the curve, hit gravel, the car skids. Down the hill I go, the car starts to tip over as I hit the curb with my left front wheel. Luckily, hit a tree that doesn’t allow me to turn over. Downhill over the undergrowth, gaining speed. Second break, I run into a giant anthill so common here in Brazil. It softens the impact somewhat (made of dried earth) and the hood was halfway into the anthill. Fortunate it was there because if it was not, I’d have hit a thick tree behind that anthill, which would have killed me or maimed me.

    Points for the Uno, it didn’t flip over, it sustained the hits and left me unscathed. The only injuries I endured, a pain in my coccyx a couple of days, and cuts on my knees because i slid forward in my seat and cut two half circles in the plastic below the wheel (wasn’t wearing the seatbelts, yeah, smart kid I was). It was a good 6 to 8 m down the hill and into the woods. The car was all beat up, but none of the major systems were damaged and the car was recovered. I drove it another 2 yrs after that. Seemed pretty tough to me and the crumple zones did their job and kept me safe. As did the window frame and roof where I hit the tree that kept the car upright. I think it was a strong impact and the car held up fine. It spent a month being fixed, but fixed it was. Guess what I’m saying is that modern small cars can take as big a hit as larger cars. Don’t see how a larger car might have done better in this case. In fact, being heavier, it might have even flipped by squashing the tree that kept the smaller car upright.

    Second one. Going to the university (on business, some years after graduation), in another, different Uno. High speed avenue, take the left to get into the exit for the university. The light is green, some bozo doesn’t stop in the avenue going the other way and the cars taking the exit are prevented from moving as said clown was blocking the entry, but move enough I did as I was now stuck in the middle of the avenue. Suddenly, my wife screams and I think I subconsciously heard something as I don’t turn to look at her, but in the other direction and see a multi-wheeler bearing down on us, brakes screaming, horns blaring. Us, in the little Uno, right in its path. In a split second, I’m able to reverse, put the car in first and steer enough to get an angle where I miss the car in front of me, being able to steer around that car and go forward enough. As soon as I finish the maneuver the huge truck blows by, literally shaking my car in the air turmoil it creates.

    Point for the compact car. It was agile and small enough to let me make the necessary maneuvers in the short time and tight space available. A larger car might have been hard to maneuver and almost certainly, had I had been able to steer away from the car in front of me (a big if as the larger size would have demanded more space and time), a portion of the larger car might still have stuck out into the avenue and the truck would have certainly hit it. Had the truck hit us, we would have been certainly dead, and the speeds and size of the truck involved, even if I was in a huge Ford pickup, we would have been killed too.

    Yay for small cars. Saved my life twice.

  • avatar

    I’m sure the motorcycle riders among us can give you some hairy stories. I’ve got two:

    1) coming off an exit ramp, the ramp curves to intersect a road where I’d have to yield. There was an oil slick on the road beside the yield sign, and I didn’t see until it was too late. Bike slid into the intersection, luckily I was okay. The cop who showed up said he always wanted to ride, so he picked up my bike and kept revving it while walking it to the sidewalk. Was kind of funny.

    2) Riding on a typical 4-lane suburban road with strip malls. A car pulls out of a McDonald’s, and seems to be waiting for me to pass. But 1 second before I was to pass him, he guns it and makes a turn in front of me. We tap, I go down, he takes off. Guys at McDonalds see it, call a tow truck, I drink an oreo milkshake while waiting.

    I still have a bike, but don’t ride as much as I used to.

  • avatar

    A few:

    Fall of 1999 – Austin, Tx – I was turning left at a light onto Enfield. The light turned from red to green. I stalled my jetta at the light – still new to standards – and as I’m restarting the car a white f-150 blows the light going west to east. I would have been t-boned and probably killed had I not stalled. That moment stuck with me forever. I always triple check intersections now even after the light turns green.

    Spring break 2002 – driving to colorado for a ski trip. We’re near Texline, Texas at around 2am. My buddy is driving my mom’s expedition. I’m in the passenger seat and three friends in the back with the middle seat down to make a bed and they’re all sleeping. My buddy drifts off, wakes up thinks a car is oncoming, swerves and then looses control and we roll one time landing right side up. I was buckled in and suffered only a few scratches, but one of my friends in the back broke her back. Thankfully no paralysis. Then – that same trip about 20 hours later after we went from 5 people to 2 (me and a buddy – two flew home, one in the hospital) continued on, picked up a friend from the denver airport who was meeting us in Steamboat, but Steamboat got snowed in. We’re exhausted since we’d been up for 24 straight hours so he offers to drive. He’s going too fast for the conditions (snowing, north of breckenridge), and a herd of elk crosses the road. We slam our rental focus into the ass of an elk. cracked windshield, smashed hood, broken light and broken rear view mirror. No injuries to us though – although I still hope that elk is dead somewhere…

  • avatar

    I was coming back from a New Years Eve party in the early hours of Jan 1, 2000. Climbing Laurel Canyon toward Mulholland in the rain. Came around a blind curve and there was a four-door Avanti spun out and stalled across lanes with its windshield wipers still going. I had to brake and swerve into oncoming lanes to miss it. Thankfully they were clear, and my 1999 Eldorado ETC company car responded appropriately, but if I had been in a different car it could have been very different. I still think about that.

  • avatar

    Returning from Mexico City on a Boeing 767. I was assigned to a window seat 2nd row from last. I fell asleep soon after takeoff with my head against the window, as I had neglected to take my neck pillow along. Upon waking, I turned and looked out the window. The fuselage tapers at the back and you can see down and back. A Grumman Gulfstream Biz Jet passed close underneath the plane, I estimated about 300 ft. below with a heading about 140 degrees from ours. The sun shone on the polished aluminum and electric blue finish, and I could see the rivets holding the tail together. This rapidly jarred my to a full alert for the rest of the flight. I confronted the captain with this information after we landed and he hadn’t seen anything. Oblivious. He said that TCAS would have alerted him. I said I know about TCAS. It only works if you switch it on. I attempted to find a way to report this incident to the authorities. But there doesn’t seem to be any way for a passenger to do this.

    • 0 avatar

      Embarrass them with social media.

      Why would they fly with the TCAS turned off?

    • 0 avatar

      I had the same thing happen once on a flight from Minneapolis to Boston … we were over one of the Great Lakes and I picked up a speck in the distance from my window seat. Within a couple of seconds VOOOM a corporate jet just missed us, came in ~300 ft higher about 15 degrees across our wing. After the flight I asked the captain what happened and he denied we were ever near another airplane. I clarified when and where and he honestly had no recollection of it.

    • 0 avatar

      How much do you know about TCAS? It’s more likely the Gulfstream was flying without its xponder active than your commercial flight was operated without TCAS. See Gol Flight 1907, for example. It’s extremely improbable that your flight was operated with TCAS disabled.

      • 0 avatar

        OK that was a lot of reading. Wikipedia says that TCAS is only required in the US for commercial aircraft with more than 30 seats and “TCAS is not fitted to many smaller aircraft mainly due to the high costs involved (between $25,000 and $150,000). Many smaller personal business jets for example, are currently not legally required to have TCAS installed, even though they fly in the same airspace as larger aircraft that are required to have proper TCAS equipment on board. The TCAS system can only perform at its true operational potential once all aircraft in any given airspace have a properly working TCAS unit on board.”

        The TCAS on the 767 should have issued a Traffic Alert (TA) if the bizjet had a functioning ATC transponder. The way I understand it, for the TCAS to issue a resolution alert (RA) both aircraft would need to be TCAS equipped. Given the preceding, it would be unlikely for the Grumman to be TCAS equipped.

        I suspect that the aircrew of the bizjet are likely less trained/qualified/experienced than the commercial flight, as well.

  • avatar

    I picked up a girl at prom with a Tercel. I nearly died (from embarrassment).

  • avatar

    The winter of 2012, I went off the road into a field. That was my closest call so far, because I could have gone into oncoming traffic instead…

    • 0 avatar

      The solution was obviously MORE POWER.

      • 0 avatar

        To be fair, the road was literally snow-covered because windblown snow had piled upon it. I lost traction because there simply wasn’t any road under my tires, just snow.

        Still terrified the hell out of me. The black ice incident wasn’t quite as terrifying because I wasn’t going fast enough to bounce off the guardrail into the opposite lane, and I felt like I had slightly more control of the car.

  • avatar

    Mr. Lang was neither skilled nor prescient; he was lucky and nothing else. One can be eco-minded and choose a small car. But it’s only a matter of time before some coffee-swilling bozo in a Ram truck, or some cell-phoned dimwit in a Suburban, crosses that yellow road line of fate and sends you to your reward.

    I was in the market for a new car 3 years ago. I wanted the newly redesigned Focus. But I paid the extra $3k and bought a base Fusion. Here’s the rule: identify the car you want, then buy one size bigger.

    And I don’t care how many people write in to say, “Oh, the nimbleness of my small car will allow me to avoid a collision.” That’s nonsense. On those 2-lane highways (that are very common in NH and terrify me) there’s nowhere to evade to. My friend was an EMT in NH on those roads and she’d see small cars in accidents where the engines were literally ripped from the engine bays.

    You buy a car for the accident you don’t see coming.

    • 0 avatar

      My mother has a similar philosophy, something to the effect of “make sure you have enough car around you”.

    • 0 avatar

      With all do respect to you ans 28’s mother, I thinks that philosophy was valid until a few decades ago. Nowadays? Don’t really think so.

      • 0 avatar

        No argument that crash standards and metallurgy have greatly improved, but between a RAM and a Corolla, who has less of a chance being hurt?

        • 0 avatar

          I know what you’re thinking 28, and yes in a real life situation (depending) you might just have a better chance in a Ram than a Corolla. However, my main point is, if you survive a crash, you would survive it were you driving a Ram or a Corolla. In specific cases, the Corolla is better. Mountain driving, fast curves (so prevalent around here), I have seen many a pick up trying to follow cars and ending up down the ravine. A specific accident might show up a larger cars strengths, a different one will favor the smaller car. As a whole? Pretty much equal nowadays.

          • 0 avatar

            You bring up a good point, the way a vehicle behaves in a crash (or on the road in general) is also dependent on the terrain. Regarding equality in crashes, I’d have to see some data before I could agree.

          • 0 avatar

            Yep 28, guess that in the flatlands of Texas a pickup will deliver Teutonic handling. Anywhere else? Nah.

        • 0 avatar

          Anybody need to watch that RAM take out the stolen Veloster again?

        • 0 avatar
          Brian P

          The car will be much less likely to roll over. Pickup trucks in general don’t have great real-world safety records compared to cars in general.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup. Newton’s laws are so 1860s. Don’t you mind that dummy’s head being torn off by the impact with the A-pillar.

        • 0 avatar

          Yup and the earth is flat btw. Don’t believe all those new-fangled theories.

        • 0 avatar

          A pillars are a good point. It’s one of the points that modern cars now use the most quantity of high strength, composite steels that cost a bundle. No small car sold in the First World foregoes that. Yet another point where smaller car are just as good as larger cars nowadays.

          • 0 avatar

            That Fiat didn’t look very good to me. If that’s just as good in your book then your head must be made of higher strength steel than mine.

          • 0 avatar

            No Dan, my head is (probably) made of the same material as yours. Yes, bigger cars have some advantages in some accidents, smaller cars in others. I know it’s difficult to think the world evolves, but yet, it does! My point is, everything is pretty balanced out nowadays. Keep enjoying what you do, I’ll keep enjoying what I do. Cheers!

    • 0 avatar

      >> she’d see small cars in accidents where the engines were literally ripped from the engine bays.

      That’s a good thing. Cars are designed to have the engine drop out instead of dropping into your lap.

      But yes, the video had me thinking “Oh sh*t”.

    • 0 avatar

      There are literally hundreds of risks most people take every day that are more deadly than driving small cars.

      It’s logically fallacious to cite the Ram pickup versus the subcompact because the Ram pickup shares the road with brodozers, full-size SUVs, school buses, tractor trailers, garbage trucks, and other massive vehicles that are commonly involved in accidents and have size advantage over most of the passenger vehicles on the road.

      I wonder if Jack thinks driving a smaller, modern car would have been less safe than his older, larger Town Car?

    • 0 avatar

      And a terrific amount of energy is absorbed by the engine being ripped out, energy that is kept from reaching the passengers.

  • avatar

    Holy mackerel, that video scared ME to death.

    This is the scenario that I dread, and I hope I’m quick enough to react in time. With my impaired vision – legally blind in my left eye, I drive as carefully as I can, never taking my eye(s) off the road, and try to anticipate any potential hazard.

    It’s remarkable how much of a trust factor is involved in driving:

    You TRUST that signals are working properly;
    You TRUST that others obey traffic laws;
    You TRUST that drivers will stay in their lane and respect what double yellow and solid white lines, etc., stand for.

    The list gets very long.

    What happened to you happened to me once, in 1970, on base, the day before I was to leave for Okinawa for 4 months. I was driving my 1964 Impala SS convertible to a sergeant’s home who was going to store the car and drive it some for me. Going down a long, straight two-lane road, a VW bug approaches – we’re doing 50 – the base speed limit – and she crosses into my lane. My rear bumper top corner caught her rear fender and ripped a 2″ tear in it.

    Well, my heart got a good rest when it stopped beating seemingly for a few seconds, and the lady was also scared to death. No damage to my car at all, and she didn’t want to say anything, so we both let it go.

    Something I’ll never forget all these years later.

  • avatar

    I think you just told your family by posting it here ;-)

    I was driving home in January of 2012. In a 1995 F150 with balding rear tires. The day before was clear. It was snowing and icy this day.

    A Jeep cut me off on a highway. I was only doing about 35. There was a car coming the other way. I tapped the brake gently, and spun a 450 degree turn (One and a quarter full rotations). The car had fortunately passed by now.

    It’s amazing how everything seemed to be in slow motion. I’ve never thought that clearly while driving.

    I pushed the clutch in, and the vehicle stopped, and backed off the road into a driveway. I was perfectly fine, and there was no damage.

    I got new tires the next day. And new pants.

  • avatar
    Hank M.

    Route 128 Wakefield, driving a 70 Beetle in the left lane doing about 70. Some idiot passes everyone using the right hand lane, somehow loses control and spins out coming to a rest up ahead blocking the 2 left lanes. Had cars on my right. I hit the brakes, skidding and realize I have no chance of stopping in time. Steered left, jumped up on the median and bounced off the guardrail barely missing the fool.
    Left side fenders smashed in and my passenger was as white a sheet.
    Incredibly enough we were able to drive the car home.

  • avatar

    Saturday 30th of November last year. me, the GF our three kids, going for some afternoon shopping, and to drop off my oldest daughter at her friends birthday party.
    Coming out of a tunnel on top of a hill, and it’s pouring down. maybe 20 meters out of the tunnel I see car car coming up the hill starting to trail into our lane. The roads are really worn, and it’s not really a straight, so I’m not in fear at first, but after a split second or two I realize he’s not gonna straighten it up, and I try to go right to avoid him. This all happens a lot faster than it felt, but when he swiped my front fender and crushed my left wheel under my car he was all over on my side of the road. The side(seat) airbag goes off, and the car keeps going completely uncontrollable for another 30-40 meters down the road, before stopping all over at the left side of the road, with two crushed wheels, and two crushed doors (the rear door was barely able to open, the front door was 6 inches into the a-post, and the b-post was dented too)
    My GF’s ribs were bruised from the seatbelt, but the rest of us got away unharmed. The older man who hit us had some bruises and cuts to his face, his car was trashed from the middle of the grill, back to (and including) his driver door. His car also hit the guardrail on his left after hiitin us, and came to a stop inside the tunnel we had just come out of. We were probably both doing around 50-55mph when the cars hit, so we were damn lucky. Hondas (’03 CRV) are pretty safe btw, Volvos and Renaults are more or less the only cars that are better.
    I have had some smaller crashes before, mostly while alone in the car, but this one was really scary. I still have a hard time seriously considering a 15-20 year old car as a DD now.

  • avatar

    Long time ago, I was heading home from my (at the time) girlfriend’s house. I55 south between Plainfield, IL and Shorewood, IL. There’s a long gradual curve to the right and I saw in the distance a ton of emergency lights and wondered what could possibly be so bad. Very shortly I realized what it was. Someone was heading northbound in the southbound lanes easily at standard highway speed, if not more, followed by about 10 police vehicles with emergency lights on. Thankfully I had stayed in the right lane and they were all in the left lane. It was probably 1-2am. It definitely made me reconsider a lot of things that many of us take for granted while driving.

  • avatar

    I love how no one stopped to render aid.

  • avatar

    Driving my ’86 RX-7 north on Rt. 206 in Jersey one fine afternoon. I was doing 90+ on a two lane section and I could see ahead the road was widening out to 4 lane for a stretch, so I didn’t slow down even though there was a trash truck ahead of me. I figured he’d stay in the passing lane since the 4 lane section didn’t last very long before it went back to 2 lane. At any rate, I caught up to him just as the road widened. I whipped the car to the right into the slow lane, just as he did the same. He was going about 45 – 50 mph. I did the only thing possible to avoid the collision and turned the car even further to the right onto the grass shoulder. The car was fishtailing wildly for about 200 feet until I could get it under control sufficiently to steer it back onto the pavement. At the next gas station I pulled over. My heart was racing, my hair was standing on end, and my ears were shrieking from the adrenaline pumping through my veins.

  • avatar

    Driving in New Zealand on a paved single-lane mountain road. Not going particularly fast and on a somewhat familiar road, but ended up going into a four wheel drift perfectly sideways on hard right hander. Hip checked and broke the shoddy guardrail and took off the left side wing mirror and punched in both door skins. Luckily the guardrail had just enough push back to knock me back onto the road. If it wasn’t there — like on probably 70% of turns on this particular road — I would have basically driven sideways off a 300 foot cliff into a farmer’s field.

  • avatar

    Speaking of Dodge pickups, and accidents, I have a pic of one after a collision with a logging truck. The Cummins diesel ended up on the seat next to the driver. He survived with massive injuries. Can we embed pics in the comments?

  • avatar

    Very much like your experience, Steve, driving a Corolla SR5 south on Sheridan Rd in Chicago late one night after leaving a bar. Sheridan is a busy 4 lane road with no divider and no shoulders, just sidewalks full of solid objects like light poles. I’m in the left lane and there’s a cab slightly behind me in the right lane, with plenty of on-coming traffic on the other side of Sheridan. Suddenly a large sedan crosses the double yellow into my lane, coming straight at me. It’s dark so I can’t see the driver at all. I can’t swerve into the right lane because of the cab, and I don’t dare cross the yellow into the northbound lanes due to the other on-coming traffic. I did the only thing available, panic stop in my lane to at least reduce our closing speed and brace for impact. I think the other driver must have heard my brakes because he suddenly realized where he was and slammed on his, stopping just a few feet in front of me. We both sat there for several beats, staring at each other and waiting for our hearts to slide back down our throats. I saw that the right lane had cleared so I pulled around the other guy and headed for home feeling damn lucky.

  • avatar

    This is a little different from the other stories where the story is from the perspective of the driver.

    In my case I was a passenger in my friends WRX. I had, a couple of weeks prior, helped him install a large turbo and intercooler/plumbing on his previously stock WRX. After it came back from tuning it was putting down a dynoed 380 hp at the wheels.

    He took me up a road running out of town, 55 mph speed limit, with a few gentle crests and hills. When the boost built it was and still is the fastest car I have ever experienced. It felt like the car was standing on its tiptoes and would literally press you into the seat.

    I have other friends who I can ride passenger with and feel comfortable when they drive fast, it was never that way with this friend. I was uncomfortable with his driving, but said nothing and the ride ended without event.

    A month or two later, he took his girlfriend (a good friend of mine as well) up the very same road and a tuned (some may say riced) Civic tried to pass him. He did not back down and got into it. I don’t know how fast he was going exactly when he lost it but he slid into the opposing lane and into an oncoming car. His girlfriend who was riding in the passenger seat I had rode in on that same stretch of road was killed instantly. The driver of the other car was also killed instantly.

    I would be surprised if he was not going well over 110 mph when he lost it. The son of the fire chief told me later that the skid marks where he yawed into the oncoming lane were over a hundred feet long.

    I have thought about the accident since and wonder if lift-off oversteer/aerodynamic lift contributed (in addition to speed and lack of skill). I don’t make excuses for what he did though, there is no doubt in my mind that he was at fault for a very tragic accident.

  • avatar

    Driving on I-285 in north metro Atlanta, when I saw what appeared to be an object in the distance. I saw it drop out of sight and then reappear. At that point I could tell it was a trailer wheel and tire that had apparently come loose and had been hit by a vehicle. I could also see that it was remaining stationary in my view, which meant we were on a collision course. When it got close enough where I could tell it was going to come in my side of the windshield, I yanked the wheel to the right. Fortunately there was no one in that lane for me to hit. The wheel and tire glanced off of the left side of the van. At that time I thought the van would have been totaled, but all it did was to leave tire rubber on the paint. If this had happened at night, I’d never have seen it and it would most likely have come through the windshield at a closing speed of around 130 mph.

  • avatar

    My girlfriend started arguing with me about not “spending enough time with her” and “always being at the office” and I ALMOST drove the truck off the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • avatar

    Last fall in the Massey tunnel, headed into Vancouver. Passed by a Saleen Mustang convertible. Missed me by inches. He was going as fast as any car I had ever seen on a public road. If he clipped me, I was dead. I never saw him coming.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    Around midnight on a snowmobile barreling down the middle of a two-lane country road during a snowstorm in rural Wisconsin.

    Turned out that snowmobile coming the other way wasn’t a snowmobile. Instead it was a old pickup truck with the driver’s side headlight out. Missed it by that much!

    • 0 avatar

      Not my closest, but you reminded me of this one:
      Driving my integra to catch the ferry to work/ship in the fog on a small Mediterranean island. Oncoming cycle or moped veers from the far side of his lane to over the center on mine. I’m late and tired of Sardinian attitudes so I hold speed at 35 mph. His high beam blinds me as I crowd the curb, with yards to go the beam drops and I see a garbage truck without a driver side light completely on my side to pick up. Missed his bumper by an inch if less. Not close to death though, just scary.

    • 0 avatar

      Missing headlights can really mess you up. I was following a pickup truck at night, with both of us waiting for an opportunity to pass the semi in front of him. The road opened up and there was only what appeared to be an oncoming motorcycle coming down the hill in the distance when the truck moved out to pass. Being a ridiculously aggressive driver at the time, I followed the truck into the left lane close behind the entire way. Right as he got past the front of the semi, he swerved back into the right lane and the distant motorcycle suddenly became an oncoming semi when he put his brights on. I was very surprised to come out of that with my mirrors intact.

  • avatar

    Two that stand out in my mind:

    1) In the mid eighties, my parents and I were vacationing at a nearby lake, when we were stuck in the middle of an intersection. We had the green light, but I was sitting in the back seat of a Bronco. I look out the window and see a semi coming down the hill with his brakes locked and there was no way he was going to stop. I yelled as loud as I could for my dad to get out of the way, and he had to run into the median. The truck barely missed us. Scared the ever living you know what out of me.

    2) I was driving down a windy two lane road in my Alfa Romeo, when I passed a gigantic trailer filled with the smelliest cattle I’ve ever smelled. About half a mile up the road, on a very long right hand sweeping curve, I met a Chevy Suburban driving down the middle of the road. I guess my reaction time was pretty good, because I was able to get out of her way. Unfortunately there was no shoulder on this road, and the combination of the right wheels going off the road and the sharpness of the curve meant that my car spun out. Miraculously, there was nobody right behind me and the car was mostly still in the road. Knowing that the gigantic cattle truck was close behind me meant that I got that car started up and going in the right direction as quickly as I could.

  • avatar

    You get plenty of close calls with the idiots who drive around here in the Detroit area, but only two where I think lives were in danger.

    The first one I had an intersection was a bit in front with cars stopped. The light turned green and the cars cleared the intersection. I was far enough back that I did not have to slow down, and didn’t even catch up to the cars ahead. I enter the intersection when a car flies through the intersection from my right. I swerved to the right, barely missed the back of his car. Now I’m about to hit the car that’s stopped in the right turn lane. I had to swerve back into my lane almost hitting that car. My friend who was in the passenger seat nearly crapped himself, and couldn’t believe I didn’t hit something.

    The other, I was with a coworker going to lunch. He was driving, I was in the passenger seat. We pulled out of our lot onto a side street we all use because there was a light at the intersection that crossed the major road our dealership is on. He pulled up to the light waiting for the green to turn left. On our left side is the dealership, which is elevated about six feet and blocked our view of the main road. The light turns green, and my coworker just stood there. I tell him the light is green and he just stands there. No more then five seconds goes by from the time the light turned green when a car just blows through the light from the left side. I was in complete shock. I asked him why he didn’t go, and he said he can’t explain it. He just didn’t have the urge to go. I told him that I would have pulled right out in front of that car.

    • 0 avatar

      Had something similar happen to me, several Halloweens ago. It was about 7:30 at night, so it was dark by then.

      I was in the front of a line of cars in two left-turn lanes controlled by an arrow, with an ungodly wait and a short green, coming out of a strip mall area with a Lowes, McDonald’s, etc. It was also raining pretty good, and visibility was crap!

      The light went green, and as my foot came off the brake, I hesitated, as something felt “funny!” Not a second later, a dark-green early-90s Cutlass Supreme 4-door (with no lights) came blasting through the intersection! Had I hit the gas, I wouldn’t have seen what hit me! Maybe I might have had a chance with the side airbags which were a new item on my 2000 Accord I was driving, but I’m doubtful! Well worth waiting another two minutes at that light that night!

      The second time was the T-Boning I took from a municipal transit bus which ran a red light (and which I didn’t see until it was too late to avoid anything — I was driving up to the intersection, and not stopped, as with the first incident). Fortunately, the impact speeds were around 15mph, and no airbags were sacrificed in the encounter. (Though the SOB driving the bus pled out to a “fixit” ticket in court!)

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        sgeffe, bus drivers are allowed some absurd hours of service. Like 14 I think. Day after day. Basically, the federal regulations legalize excessive hours behind the wheel, not limit it. As far as Dan’s comments, well, people make mistakes. I’m probably more cautious than 80 percent of the drivers out there. Then every once in a while I do something stupid. A driver makes a thousand judgments and he only has to make one wrong one for a fatality.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s what pi$$ed me off so much about the bus incident: this wasn’t just “Mr. Jones misses a red light in his Civic and plows into Mrs. Smith’s Focus,” this was a 10,000 pound vehicle with the possibility of causing a serious injury or early meeting with St. Peter, but the guy managed to get off with a slap on the wrist! (I at least would have liked to see him get a couple points on his CDL, if not outright FIRED!)

  • avatar

    “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t impaired, or texting, or something like that.”

    Would you have been any less dead or maimed afterwards if he did it because he spilled his drink, fell asleep, had a senior moment?

    Pretending that dangerous driving is a moral issue of phones or beers (or mental discipline to keep it at 74 in a 90 that’s posted 65) and not a physical one of right of way and vehicle control is the biggest reason the roads are as dangerous as they are.

    This guy almost killed you. No jail. No traffic school. Nothing.

  • avatar

    I’ve told this story on here before, but here you go again:

    To set the stage – about five years ago now, Southbound on I-495 in MA. It was just after a heavy thundershower, so the road was very wet but the sun was out. This is a 6 lane divided highway with a wide median with a row of trees and shrubs down the middle, but no guard rails. Traffic is on the heavy side of moderate, just after morning rush hour, 10:30-11am. 70mph average or so. I’m in a ’95 Saab 900T 3dr.

    I’m following a respectful distance behind a pickup truck in the far left lane. Across the median ahead, I see a fountain of mud and water spray up. I started braking then… Fountain of mud and water turns out to be an 18-wheeler coming across the median. It absolutely OBLITERATED the truck in front of me. Hit him at a 45 degree angle and went right across all three lanes of the highway, completely blocking it. At this point I am putting all 350lbs of me on the brake pedal, and thank God the Saab stopped about 3′ from going under that trailer. I dove across the seats, absolutely certain that someone was going to hit me and shove me under the trailer, but by some miracle everyone got stopped, at least at the scene. The guy in the pickup died on impact – he never saw it coming, didn’t even have time to hit the brakes. Somehow the truck did not hit anyone else in all that traffic on my side. Cause was a woman in a car hydroplaning into the truck on the Northbound side, breaking his steering axle. He was along for the ride at that point.

    I get the shakes just thinking about it now, five years on. Anyone who thinks they are safe on the road driving a truck or SUV should see pictures of what little was left of that pickup truck.

    As for Steve’s story – I have friend who survived exactly that sort of crash in a rusty ’80s Subaru, probably at rather higher speed. He was messed up for a long time, but he lived through it. It really comes down to lady luck once you are over 30-40mph or so. He was wearing his seatbelt. I forget what the other car was. A couple degrees or inches one way or the other can make all the difference, as can how fast they get you to a trauma center (all important, that last one). Another friend had a crash that would do the WRC proud – went off the side of I-295, hit a berm, and went end over end about 10 times, also in an early 80’s Subaru. Idiot dropped his cigarette and lost control. And not wearing his seatbelt, he ended up in the way back – it was a wagon. But he walked away. Best kind of crash – very dramatic, but no sudden stops. There was a famous picture of a State Trooper holding up his hands demonstrating the end-over-endness of it that was plastered all over school.

  • avatar

    Driving a rented full-sized Ford, I was passing an 18 wheeler going uphill on the NY State Thruway,doing 70-75 mph. I was next to the truck when the driver decided to pass the truck ahead of him. I really had no choice but to head for the weeds. The shoulder was wide enough, but the ground was very uneven. I considered myself very lucky that I didn’t roll the car.

    • 0 avatar

      Driving home from my cousin’s wedding in Marquette, MI in my Dad’s ’86 Century with the whole fam damily along. As I’m rolling along at about 70mph in the left lane of US 23 through the curves in the Ann Arbor area at the M-14 junction, a clapped-out Mustang next to me pulled right out, and it was either dive down the sloped berm, or get sideswiped! Somehow, I was able to keep the car upright, since I was perpendicular to the slope! Believe me, I wanted to have my Dad drive us home by that point, but he wouldn’t hear of it; get back on the damned horse and keep on!

  • avatar

    I’ve had a few others but this is the one that still stands out:

    I was driving my ’89 Prelude Si up “bloody 27” which is the local name for a section of US27 in the middle Florida running thru the Everglades. It earned it’s name because (at the time) it was only 2 lanes, narrow, often foggy and heavily traveled by large, slow trucks spilling sugar cane everywhere. Thus about once a week someone was in a major wreck out there. And it almost happened to me very early one morning in thick fog. With almost no visibility I just manage to spot a big truck broken down on the side of the road. Due to the narrow shoulder he wasn’t complete off the road, about half of the truck was still in my lane. So I began to drive around him when I realize his driver’s side door was OPEN and he was standing right there in the middle of the road! So I swerved into the opposite lane driving head on into oncoming traffic at approximately 60 mph. I did this totally blind due to the fog and his door blocking my view ahead. I whipped back into my own lane just in the nick of time. It took about 40 minutes for my heart rate to return to normal… then I turned to my buddy (who was in the passenger seat) and we both at the same time said “well that almost killed us”.

  • avatar

    I was making a left turn from a stop and pulled out in front of an oncoming Camry that was going around 45 mph. The driver was, thankfully, on point enough to swerve right and miss me by a couple of feet.

    It was a shaded, wooded road and it was late enough in the day that the sun was below the trees. The Toyota was dark green with its lights off. I looked right at him and he never registered to me.

    90% mea culpa. The other 10% says armies in places with trees paint their toys foliage green for a reason. Cars without DRL probably shouldn’t be that color, or asphalt grey either.

  • avatar

    The On Ramp 1986

    Back in the day I was living in Nashua, New Hampshire working for PSNH in project management. It was a get some college credits work/study job as I paid my own way through college – and this was a rather broke time in my life. I owned a 1985 Ford EXP that I had bought with help from my parents from Linders, a salvage title recovery company of national acclaim (they do excellent work). My EXP was utterly stripped, not even power steering or tinted glass. This translated in to 82 HP in about 1,800 pounds of car with deep gears. How I survived my late teens is beyond me but I did. My father was an engineer for a tool & die firm that I did a lot of work with Ford Motor Company and later learned that I had unknowingly gotten one of these rocketships and then became gravely concerned. This car had NO insulation at all. I had a pug at a time and he would curl up in the back cargo area right over where the muffler was BECAUSE THE SPOT WOULD HEAT UP!!!

    As part of the project management team we would be assigned to various power plants that were in shutdown, manage the maintainence process and then go to the next plant. One plant we frequented was in Bow, New Hampshire. At the time I lived in Nashua so my drive was Route 3 (at the time it had a toll booth every, oooh 1/2 a mile it seemed) to 293 to back south on 93 to get off at 3A and head north along the Merrimack (power plants need water for cooling).

    If you look at a map and if you appreciate a good on-ramp, one could argue this is one of the best in the nation:|4E4E|&TI=Manchester%2c+New+Hampshire%2c+United+States

    Do you see, see it there coming off the Everett Turnpike banking around to the south onto I-93? Isn’t she a beauty. When I was assigned to Bow I would drive that ramp EVERY SINGLE DAY and there was never ever any other traffic on it.

    Let me explain this long sweeping ramp to you. First, it’s huge – as in wide. Think three oversized 18 wheelers side-by-side wide. Next, it’s banked, heavenly banked a good 3 to 5 degrees. Finally it’s outer side has a wonderful guardrail along it and then it ends in a long straight away onto I-93.

    Children don’t try this at home.

    On a good day with my crappy Ford Escort suspension and my 165/80R13 tires I could take the ramp at 85 MPH and have room to spare, that was 50 MPH over the posted speed limit of 35 MPH. This is the kind of ramp made for Japanese motorcycles or a Lotus Elise or a Corvette Z06. This is Road Atlanta on the regular road – 3/10 of a mile of sheer banked joy.

    So on one winter morning with the temperature hovering right around freezing and the sun shining brightly, the snowbanks along the Everett Turnpike were melting and there was a lot of water on the road. As I approached my ramp, my own personal Lugana Seca I decided that the ramp would probably be wet and I should slow down to ohhh, say 60 MPH, which wouldn’t be an effort for a Hummer H1 with a dead elephant strapped to the roof rack.

    For those who drive in the northern part of the country you know the color asphalt becomes in the winter months from the salt put on the road. It becomes a dull light gray, almost like concrete. Wet pavement has a distinct dark sheen to it with some gloss. But black ice turns that light gray concrete looking pavement into obsidian shining in the early morning sun (notice that ramp banks to the east).

    And as I entered the ramp at a mere 60 MPH the light gray salt colored pavement turned jet black, like obsidian, and I immediately knew I was in big, big trouble.

    Time seemed to slow down and the car, my little EXP, took what seemed forever to every so slowly turn around 180 degrees as we approached the apex of the ramp. I was now going backwards at around 60 MPH. My thoughts racing and suddenly I was thinking of the worst case scenario – I’d smack the guard rail essentially head on past the apex of the turn, punch through or climb over, and go down the 30 or so foot embankment where I’d wait a couple of hours for the next car to come by.

    I don’t know what brain cell fired off this idea, it sure seemed like a good one at the time – and I yanked up on the emergency brake handle and slammed it back down.

    Suddenly the car swung around and it seemed that maybe I was going to pull off a miracle, yes, I’m facing forward again, this is good – WHAM!!!

    Sir Issac Newton said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This basic principal of physics could be easily observed on a pool table. If you hit a ball and it hits the side of the table at a 45 degree angle it will move at a 45 degree angle in the opposite direction. Real simple. Well an 1,800 pound car with 165/80R13 tires on an ice covered ramp behaves the same way and if you happen to broadside a guardrail at say an 85 degree angle you will travel in the opposite direction – the guardrail on the other side – WHAM!!!

    Now this for good measure will send you across the ramp and over to the guardrail on the other side, fortunately these broadside hits are scrubbing off some speed, when is this ride going to – WHAM!!!

    OK, I’m losing my sense of humor here and I’m drifting back over to the other – SSSSSSSCREEEEEEEEEEEEECCCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

    I’ve stopped. Oh sweet merciful God in heaven I’ve stopped. It seems through all of this I had the brake pedal planted to the floor and I was now off of the black ice and back onto that sweet gray salt covered pavement. Man my head is killing me. Oh look, the tachometer. It’s at 800 RPM and not waivering. You mean I remembered to push in the clutch through all of this AND the car is still running. Maybeeeee this isn’t all that bad after all.

    Whoa! The car door still opens and closes. OK, OK, that’s a good sign. I start looking up the ramp and for what seems like a 1/4 of mile there are bits of silver and black on both side of the ramp. I start walking up the ramp picking up pieces of my car. If you’ve ever seen Planes Trains & Automobiles and remember when John Candy drove the rental the wrong way down the highway between two semis, and was looking over the destroyed car saying, “ya, that could be buffed out,” well that was me.

    Then I noticed that New Hampshire’s finest was sitting on I-93 down by Exit 10. So I sat, and I sat, and I sat. I didn’t want to get nailed for “leaving the scene of a property damage accident” as I had dented up New Hampshire’s pretty guardrail on the first hit. After 30 minutes of waiting in 32 odd degree weather I gave up waiting, and kept going to work.

    My boss had me see the power plant nurse who told me to go to the emergency room as they thought I had a concussion. I drove myself home back to Nashua, my ego bruised about as bad as the left side of my head (which had smacked the drivers window on the first hit – yes I was wearing a seatbelt).

    What about the car you say? Well my little EXP was not totalled but was as close as you could get. It was repaired by the Ford dealer in Manchester, New Hampshire which has one of the premire body shops on the east coast. They get cars from as far away as Washington D.C. and Ohio (at least at the time) including many exotic luxury cars because of their reputation. The manager – he recommended getting rid of the car after repairs as he felt that they could never restore it to being right.

    I followed his advise, and got myself a nice civil Ford Tempo. Anyway – that’s my story, oh ya, and I never did drive that ramp like that again, even on a warm summer day.

  • avatar

    I don’t know what’s luckier – that Lang was able to avoid the wreck, or that the guy didn’t pull a gun on him after he followed him home. Not unlikely if the guy had warrants out on him or something – he had to figure the “other guy” was on the phone with the cops.

    Unfortunately, you never can tell.

    Glad you lived to tell the tale, Mr. Lang…go home, have a beer, and have some excellent sex tonight.

  • avatar

    December 1985, I’d had my learner’s permit for 3 or 4 months, and I was driving my mom’s ’84 Celebrity home from North Bay, south on Highway 400 approaching Toronto. It was freezing rain, and wall-to-wall cars going about 60 to 80 km/h. I was in the left hand lane going at least 80. I wasn’t quite paying enough attention, and I saw brake lights up ahead of me and stabbed the brakes…too hard, the car began to fishtail and then pirouetted into a snowbank across 3 lanes of traffic. Shocking that I wasn’t hit. I managed to drive the car out of the snowbank and then proceeded the rest of the way home at a dramatically reduced pace. That was quite the ill-starred trip, as I got my first speeding ticket (123 in a 90 km/h zone on Hwy 11) driving up to North Bay. But ever since, I’ve had a laser eye for coppers (only 1 ticket since) and a great respect for how quickly a car can get away from you. In hindsight, there was something never quite right with the brakes on that car as both my brother and I subsequently managed to loop it under heavy braking going straight on the highway in the dry.

  • avatar

    To drive an old beater to save $10,000 to die… Most of the commenters on this site probably would opt out from airbags if this choice would be available, so they could have the ultimate striper, be cause, you know, airbags can go wrong and are costly to replace…

  • avatar

    The one that springs to mind for me is from a drive on the Mass Pike last summer. I was returning from a work trip to Vermont — beautiful day, moderate traffic but not too heavy, nothing warranting concern.

    Out of nowhere, a dump truck or similar conveyance ahead violently blows a tire and loses control, spinning out. Couple of cars ahead are either hit by, or unable to avoid hitting, the truck. I *slam* on my brakes immediately, and come up just short of the car ahead, losing a fair amount of rubber in the process.

    The thing that got me was that a few seconds earlier, I’d been distracted by something at the side of the road — the boredom of a long trip setting in — and turned away when I realized I’d taken my eyes off the traffic ahead. I knew full well that if I hadn’t turned back exactly when I did, I wouldn’t have been able to make that stop. Given the speeds involved, I would have at least totaled my car, if not worse.

    It was a useful reminder that cell phones and their ilk have no monopoly on distraction.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, that one is good and reminded me of another near miss. In a Fiat too, this time a Palio. Barreling down an avenue, 80-100 km/h, four lanes, traffic all around. A semi pulls out from a garage to get a return on the other side of the avenue. He literally blocks the whole avenue. Jam on the brakes, not enough. The Palio had 2 brake pads and 2 discs, fell it slipping, let it go, step on it again, avoiding the jam. Not enough. Another one of the slo mo moments i look to my left, no one there, turn the car left, the car slids to a stop sideways. Close call. Luckily no one hits me, the semi trailer (mofo idiot, assasin!) makes his merry return, I straighten the car and off we go. Hat tip to Fiat for a well balanced car (a SUV or pickup might have rolled over). Big or small, makes a difference.

  • avatar

    Back in 2003ish I was heading into Quakertown PA on 309 north (6-lane highway with a grassy median at that point) in my ’98 Z28. It had been pouring buckets all day and I was heading into Q-town to see a late movie. I was traveling in the middle lane at about 60 mph roughly 2 car lengths behind the truck in front of me, and there was a vehicle in the left lane even with the truck ahead of me (both pickups). Coming through a low point in the road there was a HUGE puddle that stretched across all 3 lanes. When the 2 trucks ahead of me hit the puddle it caused the vehicle in the left lane to swerve to the right. They made contact and swerved away from each other, and while they were apart something in my 21-year-old brain decided it would be best to try and get ahead of this situation rather than stay behind it. Looking back that wasn’t the best idea, but I was extremely lucky anyway. I exited the puddle as the vehicles swerved away from each other, dropped into 3rd gear, and took off between the two vehicles. In my rear view mirror I saw the head lights swerve back towards each other and the trucks bounced together again. I shifted back into 6th and made it to the theater shaking and amped to 11. I’m still amazed that everything went right enough for that to take place as it did!

  • avatar

    I went to breakfast in the dark last Saturday morning. I had just turned west at a light on US290 when I was passed by an eastbound car going very fast. I found out later that he had moved or drifted over to the eastbound lanes and was head on with a westbound van about a quarter-mile behind me. Both drivers died and the wife and kid in the van are critical. I didn’t learn about the crash till later. If I had delayed for 30 seconds, it could have been me he hit.

  • avatar

    A very simple one to describe. No need to get into superfluous drama.
    Driving down a street when oncoming drunk speeder crossed over to my side at last second and we collided head on with no braking from either party. My car was a 1964 model. Never learned what the other one was.
    Even combat in Viet Nam was less traumatic.

  • avatar

    December 2012, I was traveling I-75 south out of Atlanta. I was in the right lane in a construction zone with a concrete barrier at my passenger door. Two tractor trailers zoomed past in the left lane, where they were already traveling, when the one in front signaled and moved over into the right lane. The guy following, apparently did not check his mirror, and began to change lanes into my rental. When I realized he was not just drifting, I slammed on the brakes and he flew past, taking out my driver door handle and mirror. Miraculously, I kept the car off of the concrete and the truck only left tire swirls in my front door and fender. I was almost UNDER the trailer of the rig when he made his move.

    Despite my horn and flagging, he continued on as though nothing happened, ignoring my gestures. The cops never caught him, so I wonder if he had been drinking or worse, but they did locate him eventually, from my description.

    I never heard the final disposition of the case, but the cops were issuing him a summons for leaving the scene. Hopefully, my insurance carrier got reimbursed for the +$3,000 in damage he did to my car. Thankfully, that’s all it was. I can still think up some pretty morbid alternatives, with someone else writing this.

  • avatar

    Back when I had a motorcycle, I was leaving Yosemite carving some beautiful mountain roads when a squirrel ran across my path and stopped. Like a fool, I nailed the brakes and locked them up, skidded for a few seconds but somehow managed to not only miss the squirrel but recover control of the bike.

    15 minutes later, a car comes around a corner straddling the double yellow, blocking half of my lane. If I’d have been in a car I’d have been toast, nowhere to go, mountain on one side, cliff on the other. But I threaded the bike between the car and mountainside, no muss no fuss.

    That was one exciting morning.

  • avatar
    Vojta Dobeš

    A press Ford Focus ST wagon, hot day, tiredness and eagerness to try it out on backroads ASAP. Got off the highway to a two-lane main road, and started driving a bit too spirited right away, instead of waiting for twisty backroads.

    ESP was off, and the last number I remember seeing on the speedometer before entering the right-hand sweeper was about 110-120mph. For reason unknown, I lifted off just a tiny little bit.

    Managed to correct the initial oversteer with a huge dab of oppo, but the RF wheel already hit grass and when it got back to the pavement, the car spun the other way.

    Flew off the road, crashed into the field about three times, removing engine from the car and throwing one of the front wheels (with the shock and spring) about 100 feet further.

    I emerged from the wreck basically unscathed.

    I stopped thinking I can drive, and I stopped driving like a lunatic on main roads. I keep that for deserted backroads (twisty enough so I can have fun at reasonable speeds) or tracks.

  • avatar

    In 1961, driving from Athens, GA to Atlanta on a 2 lane road in sunny weather following a rain storm, a large semi was in front of me, a Goodyear truck as I recall. These were the days when a driver would signal (with his left turn signal) that it was OK to pass him. I was driving a frat brother’s ’57 Chevy Bel Air 2 dr. coupe, V8, Powerglide. So the trucker gives me the signal and I pull out, running up to 70 mph. About the time I’m even with cab of the truck I hear him standing on the horn. The road is clear of traffic but there is a huge puddle of water covering the road from the left ditch. I hit the water and immediately began to hydroplane, the car swerving to the right in front of the trucker who by this time was, I assume, standing on his brakes. I took my foot off the gas and counter steered to the left. The car immedaitely swung around to the left. I again attempted to correct and pulled the tranny into Low (mistake?). The car swung back to the right and I looked right and could see the trucker wide-eyed. At this point, I gave up and laid across the seat grabbing the bottom and between the seat back. The car spun around completely and went front-end first into the right hand ditch parallel to the road, stopping about 1 ft. from a telephone pole! The trucker stopped and gave me a ride into the next town where a logging trucker offered to pull me out of the ditch for $20. I gladly paid him. There wasn’t a scratch on the car! A little water from the ditch got under the passenger door and wet the carpet but that was it. I never told my friend (or anyone else for a long time) what had happened. Close call, but “no banana.”

  • avatar

    Glad you’re still around to entertain and enwisen us Steve.

    Coincidentally, earlier today I was reminded of the involuntary restyling of my mothers Citroen AX I caused. In this instance I was told, and believe that small and light saved the day. Having seen what regular cab pickups looks like wrong side up, I can see why.

    Fortunately in my case I was driving cautiouly. 5 minutes before late at night on a fast stretch of north Welsh A road, I braked into a long curve moderating my speed from “Jail” to “Iresponsible whippersnapper”, finding brakes to be less than 50% stopping power.

    Freaked out, I stopped and checked the brake fluid which looked fine. After this event and with no alterntive options, I proceeded at a much more reasosnable and legal pace. The brakes felt fine, but I was less than thrilled knowing the car had just been serviced by the dealer with particular attention requesed to the brakes that had been feeling unusual.

    The long flat stretch of road ended at the top of a steep hill with hairpin bends descending though the forest to the valley floor. Heading gently into turn 5, the car again failed to slow properly. Instead of taking the corner, we overshot and rolled two and a half times to land on its roof. Lucky? Hell yes. Turns 4 or 6 would have sent us through the crash barrier down a steep tree covered hill to our death.

    The officer who arrived credited the absence of major injury to seat belts and the light weight of the car saving it from deforming or more than one window from breaking.

    Live each day as your last, because when your time is up, it’s up.

  • avatar

    This winter, one of the days we got a reasonably heavy blizzard, I was in the left lane of the highway, doing about 80km/h (it was either that to not hold anyone else up, or get stuck behind everyone else going 40 in the two right lanes). Not a big deal, the highway was well traversed enough that there were tire tracks to keep me going straight. Until there weren’t. Plowing through six inches of snow, being pulled towards the median, I jerked the world a little too hard, and that got the tail swinging back and forth, 5 or 6 times (which, in the moment, seemed to take forever). After collecting myself, I immediately moved right, and carried on for the day.

    My winter tires are creeping up on 5 years old, so they’re definitely due for replacement this coming season.

  • avatar
    See 7 up

    And people think driverless car are dangerous. I love cars. I can’t wait till people don’t have to drive them because the vast majority of people wont.

  • avatar

    When I was 18, I got my first car, a 1985 Firebird 2.8. At the time, I worked as a cashier in a local shopping center pharmacy and left to get lunch – about a mile away. I had owned the car for about a month at this point.

    I pulled out into the southbound slow lane of the four-lane main drag and as I was rolling along, someone decided to pull out in front of me. I was going about 45, way too fast to stop in the three whole car lengths the guy left me to work with.

    Stopping would’ve been the wrong answer, so I firewalled it and swerved hard to the left.

    Powered by all 135hp the V6 had to give, I dove into the world’s luckiest gap in oncoming traffic at 50-60 and fishtailed to a stop in the gravel parking lot of the auto body shop on the other side of the street. Ironic, huh?

    I put it in park and just sat there for five minutes catching my breath, calming down and fantasizing about killing that guy.

    He probably hadn’t even seen me coming.

  • avatar

    I have two close calls. One was recently. Driving home in my 2003 Pontiac Vibe, going 70 on the Interstate near downtown, I came upon traffic, and the car stalled. It had been acting tired lately, and it wound up being a coil (this car has individual coils on the spark plug) fouled plugs, and an air filter. But it was dead. I was in the left lane, and traffic was slow/stop and go. I couldn’t cut to the right to get in the bigger median, I had to squeeze into the median that was barely big enough for my car. I tried starting it, and it just wouldn’t go. Then the battery died. Then traffic cleared up. That is when the fun began. I had called 911, and was waiting for help. I probably should have gotten out of the car and waited up the road, as I was on a blind corner. Scariest 30-40 minutes of my life, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the rear view.

    In 1989, I had a 1983 Honda Civic HF. The HF stood for High Fuel (mileage). It also meant “no power”. One day, I was travelling behind a semi on a two lane. He was going 55 or something gawd-awful slow, so I decided to try a pass. I poked out to look ahead, and there was a lone truck. It was way ahead, and it looked like it was in our lane. With the all clear, I went ahead. About 30 seconds in, and halfway through I realized the truck wasn’t in our lane, it was in the opposing lane. For some stupid reason, I kept going, thinking I could make it. I did, by the skin of my teeth. You know how you feel when you are leaning back on your chair and almost fall? That heart in your throat feeling? I felt that way for the next 10 miles. Needless to say, I didn’t try any passing like that again. I still loved that car, though.

  • avatar

    I don’t like this game. Left the road at speed backwards over a ditch in a 70 challenger twice about three years apart. Went so much faster in that same car than it’s speedo would report that the front wheels lifted, found out that the brakes were good enough to get me back down to 95 before they were just riding a cloud of melted shoe. Took an Integra so fast it’s rear wheels lifted off the road. Cross wind took me across the yellow dotted all the way over the far side shoulder white line. Took off hard in a V8 swapped 240z on green and crossed the intersection in front of the red light runner (she looked pissed). Found out my buddies VW van tires were bald by drifting around a mountain curve with a cliff or rock face reward for error. Got crushed in an offset by a drunk red light runner, Integra crush zones and seat belt left me stiff, she got a complex compound fracture of her right lower leg bones where she was matting the accelerator all the way in. Flipped and spun the next Integra on a winding road with cliff but ended up back on the tires. Dived into a driveway and watched a pickup rear end the car I used to be behind. Spun a 720 through a freeway S-curve after an iced over bridge. Hit black ice so smooth that the right front didn’t start spinning after I tapped the brake, put the rights into the gravel shoulder so I could have some influence, spun 3/4 of a turn and watched a jag with its driver along for the ride slide past on the crossing road just behind me, drivers door to drivers door facing front to front but me going sideways. I’m sure there have been more. Injuries from all that? I scraped my hand on the front plate pulling a rock from in front of my deep sump pan after a backwards ditch flight and burnt my thumb with a fragment of road flare after the flip. That’s it. I had a lot of luck, but I try to live like it’s used up now.

  • avatar

    Simply stated:
    1st time: 1978, split between I-75 & I-85 north out of Atlanta. No memory of what happened, other than I rolled my ’70 Charger, which ended upright, with the top on the driver’s side crushed below the steering wheel and me hung out of the side. EMT’s said that the seat belt saved me from ejection. I ended up with a concussion, a few cuts, and chipped teeth.

    2nd time:
    Driving a ’69 Dodge A-100 Sportsman window van..I approached a railroad crossing parallel to my direction of travel, which was obscured by heavy growth, and not having seen anything on the tracks as I approached, made a right turn directly into the path of a single engine. Peripherally seeing the huge mass, I punched the accelerator and all 340 c.i. squirted me just far enough so that the locomotive only caught the rear corner of the van. Spun me around 360 degrees, popped off the corner/door right at the body seam. I changed the flat tire, stowed the door & corner inside and drove home. Needless to say, I became MUCH more cautious @ crossings after that!

    3rd time:
    21 December 2011, driving up the residential street below my house, T-boned by a driver in a large silver Cadillac DTS. I was driving a 2007 Honda Fit Sport, and as I saw him, he hit me in the driver’s door leading edge. Side curtain/seat airbags deployed; broke the CV joint/control arm, put a two inch hole in the tire, and a three inch hole in the inner rim of the front wheel. I was uninjured. BTW the way, this was a hit and run!!

  • avatar

    I have close calls like this way too often. The back roads I take to work are way too narrow and too many people drive cars they just can’t control driving at the speed they do around corners. I drive faster than I probably should but I stay on the proper side of the line. I’m sticking with my Corolla because so far it’s been small enough to avoid trucks who cross the lines.

  • avatar

    Close Calls! LMAoff!

    My life has been one close call after another. Skill and luck, and a cold calculating demeanor followed by decisive action has pulled me out of every one…did I mention LUCK….col!

    From spinning my airplane twice, to nearly getting run down at sea by a barge on a dark night, to so many close calls in cars and murdercycles, I would have a multi-page list to count them all.

    How about taking an exit and hitting the exit sign and being thrown off my bike back out on to the freeway and watching oil pans swerve by trying to miss me. There is a lot more to that story and I would still like to thank all of those drivers who were paying attention to what was happening around them and reacted accordingly. Today I would be a dead duck, as all of those drivers would probably be on the phone or texting. Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump! Repeat…

    Or, spinning a Miata through the air in the dark and landing on a 35 degree bank in a bunch of Blackberries. My first thought, ‘Hey! It really does have 50/50 weight distribution. She land on all fours sideways and didn’t roll. How many people have rotated a Miata 540 degrees in the air?

  • avatar

    Sometime around 1979 or 80, I was sitting at intersection of Palmer and Venoy waiting for the light to change when I heard police sirens, there was a yellow/orange 70 Torino waiting to go west on Palmer in the n.b. left turn lane of Venoy when a 74 mercury grand marquis came through the intersection at a high rate of speed,(100+est), it tore through the Torino ripping the front clip off of that car, the grand marquis then went airborne over the roof of my car (spraying antifreeze into my cars interior)and clipped the telephone pole in half about 15 ft in the air, I believe all three occupants in the Torino were killed or badly injured, my car received minor damage from engine parts from the Torino, the grand marquis driver had been running from the police as he had robbed the florist, the driver received a broken leg and tried to flee on foot after his car landed on its side up against a giant oak tree. I was shaken but uninjured. I think that you really only have control over your own actions and everything else is just a crapshoot.

  • avatar

    My closest one was in 1978, about a year after I bought my POS Dodge Macho Power Wagon. I was on the “Old LA Highway” outside of Vegas, doing 55 or so. I was behind a blue Corolla that must have come from a salt using area as it had a lot of rust on it. Suddenly, I realized that he had slammed on the brakes. I could tell by the skidding only, as he had no brake lights at all. There was a dropoff of at least a foot on each side of the road, and there was oncoming traffic, so I only had one way to go, off the road on the right side. I had already slammed the brakes on, and it was obvious I was going to hit him, so it was a simple choice. Witnesses told me I went up on two wheels for a long time as I left the road and the right side of the truck hit the ground. One of my two dogs hit the transfer case lever when I slammed the brakes on, and knocked it into low, so I stopped pretty quickly. The carb was flooded. The driver of the Corolla was sitting there right where he stopped. I have no idea why he stopped, there wasn’t an intersection or driveway for about a mile each way. I was beyond pissed off, telling him I was going to kill him, while I cranked the truck over. He finally snapped out of his daze and made a nice U-turn, and took off for Vegas just as I got started and got the transfer case out of low. I was driving alongside the road, heading back to where I would be able to get back on the road, still yelling about what I was going to do to him when I caught him. He was doing about 70, and I was staying right with him, bouncing over the many bumps in the desert. I finally got back on the road, and at Tropicana, he got away when I got caught at the light. One of the people behind me had followed us and told me about my being up on two wheels and asked me why the pinhead had stopped like that. I probably wouldn’t have been killed, but the moron in the Corolla sure could have been. I looked for that car and guy a long time.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    After 45 + years of driving the closest call I remember was sometime in the early seventies , before the 55 mph speed limit, was going to my parents beach house , driving down highway 288 south of Houston . Back in this time it wasn’t the freeway to suburbia it is now but an overtaxed twolane highway , then considered the deadliest highway in the state of Texas . I was in a buddy’s sixties Impala sedan with 4 or 5 friends . I was in the backseat with two other guys , with 2 surfboards in front of us poking thru the side windows in the usual haze of pot smoke . Suddenly a car going the opposite way attempts to pass a semi and realizes we are in the same lane . We both swerve off the road at the same time , unfortunately both drivers pick the same side of the road to swerve into. My friend and the other driver both then swerve to the other side of the road , also at the same time . Our car turns around ,surfboards sliding precariously around , my buddy goes off the road for the third time but the buddy , always a careful driver , stoned or not , maintains control the whole time , as does the other driver , who lost a wheel cover driving into a ditch but misses us by a few feet . Often felt glad the buddy was driving and not me .

  • avatar

    So I was driving the standard 3-5 mph in my Husky Mine Detection Vehicle in in Southeast Baghdad in 2010. I stopped to look at a something strange and some a$$hat fired a molten projectile at mach oh my freaking god at my window. The projectile hit the rear edge of the window and broke up with half going through my gas tank and the other half penetrating 6 of the 7 panes of glass and stopping 3 inches from my face.

    Had I stopped another inch forward the projectile would have not gotten the edge of the window and would have gotten the glass at full force, penetrated the truck and the side of my head.

    Sometimes its a matter of inches and we get lucky. Either way, I put a renewed interest on becoming a Signal Warrant Officer that night, a few months later I got selected and left behind the life of a Combat Engineer and route clearance patrols.

    • 0 avatar

      Most of my close calls were self inflicted, meaning that I may have instigated them or not been where I should have, I have never had any one point a rocket at me or had an improvised explosive go off near me, but dude, those guys were trying to kill you! you have my deepest admiration!

  • avatar

    That would be on the 26th April 2011, the day I bought my first car.

    It was the realization of a childhood dream, so to speak. I’ve obsessed over classic cars since forever and had just bought a ’77 Triumph 2000TC. That morning Mom, Dad my sister and myself got in the families ’91 Mitsubishi Pajero and drove from Auckland to Tauranga to pick my new (old) car up. I remember being absolutely stoked about it and proceeded to drive it home with Dad as passenger since I still had my Learner license.

    I’d had a lot of driving lessons with him before and one thing I was taught, and have since un-taught myself, was only to use first gear when the car was at a complete standstill. I should stay in 2nd until then and keep the engine rpm as low as possible. No exceptions. I guess the ’90 Toyota Corolla I learned to drive in had much shorter ratios in it’s 5 speed ‘box, but this Trumpy definitely needed the downshift into 1st gear when coming to a standstill.

    So it was nighttime when we started the 3 hour drive back, and Dad suggested we stop off at his foster-brother’s residence on the way. This involved exiting SH1 and proceeding along some dimly lit country roads of which New Zealand has all too many. I came up to a Give Way sign, looked left, right and saw headlights coming toward me a fair distance away. I figured I could go through without stopping and easily complete the turn in time, so I pulled away and immediately the car labored because I was still in 2nd gear.

    Already a few of us have discussed the “slow motion” effect these circumstances can have on your thoughts, and mine was no exception. I was convinced I had time to make it so put the gas pedal to the floor, Dad was shouting at me to stop the car right there and for the next few seconds we rocked forward slowly to the ominous groan of the laboring engine. The white Ford Courier ute came into view, the driver slammed on his brakes locking all four of his wheels up at exactly the same moment I relented and brought the Triumph to a halt right in the middle of the two lane country road.

    The Courier was probably less than five meters away from us when the driver threw the wheel hard right and passed in front of my car on the opposite side of the road… My hands shook as I ground the gears several times getting it car through the intersection as the Courier’s tail lights faded into the distance. “You almost killed us and you almost killed him” rang through my head. My mother and sister pulled up and, having been right behind me in the Pajero throughout the ordeal, swore that from their view there was absolutely no room for that ute to get around me.

    It was a lesson well learned, and I’ve really got that incident to thank for my inherently cautious and calm way I have striven to drive ever since. There was no way Dad and I would have survived if that ute had hit us, and I doubt a late-eighties Courier offers much in the way of driver protection in 100+kph impacts, either.

    We can speculate on how airbags, bigger cars, better drivers and all manner of scientific theories determine who lives and who dies in automobile accidents. Personally, as much truth as many of these factors holds, I believe that in some cases the result is solely decided by an Act of God.


  • avatar

    I was on I-55 passing Bolingbrook outside of Chicago at about 2AM, feeling just a little drowsy. Part of this stretch of highway is dim. I was in the center lane, cruising in my xB at the NVH-mandated speed of 78mph. I was startled, to put it mildly, when I saw the black Escalade just sitting parked in the center lane with no lights on. There wasn’t even time to apply the brakes, only steer.

    I know this sounds corny, but:
    -If I didn’t have the Ebay HID’s that everyone hates, there is no way that I would have seen this car in time. The little glint off it’s tail light is what grabbed my attention.
    -If I didn’t have the suspension upgrades, lowered stance, and better wheel and tires, I would have slammed into the Caddy for sure.

    I swerved so hard, that the right suspension compressed enough to shave some sidewall from the tire on the fender. My mirror almost touched the escalade’s rear 1/4, and made a whooshing sound. I ended up on the shoulder, almost slamming the center barrier, and kicking up rocks.

    I bet someone behind me died that night. I was in too much shock to dial 911. Made it the last 2 miles home and took a cold shower.

  • avatar

    Loose cargo trailer versus Subaru handling.

    May of ’88, a beautiful spring morning heading east from Wenatchee on State Route 28 to enjoy a day at the Gorge winery. I’m driving the 4 of us in my 83′ GL station wagon cruising at 55 on a perfectly good, dry and straight section of asphalt highway. Behind are two friends in a Civic. I see a big Winnebago barreling down the highway, opposite lane and coming towards us in a sorta cloud of dust. My wife gasps. The next thing I see is a cargo trailer coming straight at me very close and probably 70-80 feet away. Typical closing speed of 100 mph (~150 feet a second) plus means I had a heartbeat (later calculated at 1/2 second) to react.

    Pure instinct results in me juking right and hitting the brakes while avoiding an approaching bridge abutment. The trailer removes my left mirror, cuts an inch wide gash down the left side of car from the middle of the rear passenger door to the twilight. I come to a stop on the bridge so close to the right railing that we can’t open the right doors. I pull ahead and then it’s a “Say what moment?”. The Civic behind us burns 100 feet of rubber stopping and the trailer passes in front of it. The Winnebago stops several hundred feet away and driver hops out, running towards us. The trailer is nowhere to be seen.

    We trace tire marks through the sand past a telephone post and sagebrush and find the trailer well off the highway, about 200′ from pavement sitting tongue buried in the sand. Not a trace of damage on it save the left hand steel toolbox that shows the damage from hitting the Subaru.

    The Winnabago driver walks up and we pick the tongue up and there is the ball hanging down from the coupler. His wife yells at him “I told you to tighten that!”. Inside the cargo trailer (a totally enclosed 35’+ long trailer) is a complete and undamaged soaring airplane (glider) all folded up. Turns out he drug the trailer on the chains till they broke (hence the dusty look coming towards me).

    We get back in our cars and drive to the winery.

  • avatar

    Mine just happened a few weeks ago after driving from Maine to Ontario to visit my family. It occurred on the way home somewhere about an hour into the Mass turnpike (hour from the NY border). I really wish I had a dash cam when it happened, think I might buy one before my next long trip. So here’s the story:

    An idiot in a beige Camry decided to use the turnaround that’s meant for Police and snow plows. I saw the car from a distance turn into it from the other side, thinking “I’ve done that before in Quebec, they must be lost”. But then as they got close to the end of the turnaround, they didn’t stop and check for traffic. They just pulled on out like there were 0 cars coming. I was in the left lane passing someone going about 72 or 73.

    Once my brain realized what was happening, I had to push as hard as I could on the brakes and laid on the horn and then started screaming at them and held up my middle finger for an extended period of time. For a second or two I was pretty sure that I was going to plow into their trunk until the ABS kicked in. I basically had to slow down from about 73 to 20ish within seconds. Luckily my car did stop, but I was probably about 10 feet behind their $hitty Camry when it finally came to a rolling stop. I ended up throwing it into sport mode and passed them on the right as quickly as I could while I was shaking and still screaming obscenities at them. I never saw the car again so I have no idea where they went, but from what I could see it was a family with the dad driving and some teenagey looking girls in the back and the mother in the passenger seat (she had her head in her hands when I passed). I never would have expected to have to deal with that situation, so now I’m going to be very cautious of morons using turnarounds. I’m also very thankful no one rear ended me.

    I hate to think what the other outcome could have been if I couldn’t have stopped in time, but I’m guessing that my car would be totalled but I might be somewhat okay (maybe). Luckily it didn’t come to that though. Anyway, I’m thankful that the OEM brake parts did their job in a high speed panic stop.

  • avatar

    Well, that does sound like close call.

    Can’t hurt to call the cops I guess. However, as someone who rides a motorcycle in ATL traffic, I would never get to my destination on time about one third of my trips if I called the cops for close calls. The scary part is that about 1 in 10 actually clearly does it on purpose (cutting me off etc.).

    Always run my helmet cam these days, just incase.

    For you Steve, I’d invest in one of these:

  • avatar

    OK… this happened at least 15 years ago. I was driving on I-95 and everything was fine except for a light rain. It just started, the rain. This was a merge, and there were maybe 5 lanes.

    Stuff started happening fast. At least one semi almost jack knifed … went across 5 lanes. There was another truck somewhere that was losing it. And cars started cars were all over the place trying to avoid the trucks.

    I’m watching this … there is no place to go. Suddenly the 3 lanes in front of me cleared for a couple of seconds and I was through with another car on my right. Nothing but daylight.

    I didn’t turn around, because I couldn’t and it was a couple of miles before the next exit. I kept going and didn’t see too much in the rear view mirror. No one died, I think, because nothing on the nightly news.

    It always seems like it is the cars behind that are helpless. Something goes bad. No where to go. Except when there is.

    There was no amount of skill that could have gotten me out of it — just luck. The drivers behind me … they needed luck, but I did see the center lanes blocking up in my rear view mirror.

  • avatar

    I-90 in western Montana, 2:00 AM, 1997 Honda Civic sedan, cruise set at 80.
    “Deer”, says my wife, as I see it standing the middle of the road. A flick-flick of the wheel and we were around it.
    If the deer had moved an inch either way, it would have come through the windshield, and kissed me on the lips.
    Thank you Honda for great steering, thank you Michelin for great tires.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a few in 14 years of driving, but surprisingly ended up uninjured through all of them. Let’s go through the list:

    1: 16 year old me in a 1996 Nissan Altima, driving like a crazed asshole invincible teenage male. Spin out I locked up my front brakes trying to shoot a gap going 80 on a road I had no business doing 80 on. Started fishtailing, entered a spin. Managed to not hit any other car, but came to rest hard into the raised curb on the side of the road after a 360.

    Car needed 2 new tires from the lock-up, and a new steelie, new control arms, and a new half shaft on the front passenger corner. Considering the rotational velocity of the spin, I’m surprised I didn’t flip the car over the curb and walked away unharmed.

    2. 5 years ago driving up I-95 through North Carolina in my autocross-prepped Acura RSX Type-S wearing Hankook RS-2s. a tire carcass is in the middle of the road and gets run over by a semi in front of us, launching it airborne. The collision path is directly into the center of my windshield. I’m able to swerve out of the way with a fraction of a second to spare, thanks to the grip of my tires with zero drama. The tire fell about a foot and a half to the left of my driver-side mirror, and I dodged the car hard enough I woke up my wife.

    3. Two winters ago, the death of my first S2000. It had been misting all night and temperatures dropped just low enough that every overpass in the DC area had frozen over. I was driving home from work at 0430 (shift work) and felt the rear step out on the first one I went over, so I decided to slow it down a bit, and not be on the gas on parts of the road that might be frozen. It wasn’t enough. After 2 more dicey overpasses on the third, and final one before I exited the expressway I lifted off the throttle too late.

    The rear diff was looking for traction and found it with one wheel, the other 3 had none. This was enough to start the car in a yaw that I almost corrected, but in the end resulted in a 540 spin. I stopped by slamming the rear driver side into a jersey barrier on the overpass. I hit hard enough I broke all the control arms in the front and rear suspension, bent the frame, bent the rear wheel and shattered the brake disk. If I hadn’t corrected, I might have spun off prior to the jersey barrier starting and off of the embankment for the overpass, so I consider that one a serious close call.

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