Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Luck, Divine Intervention, or Past Experience

A friend asked the following question about the accident I captured via a “dash cam”: “Was it luck, Divine intervention, or your past experience that allowed you to stop so quickly? One more second and you would be headed to a different doctor. My guess it was a combination of the three”

(The video in question is below)

I was already slowing down and I left foot brake (old habit from racing days) so it was just a matter or mashing the pedal a little harder when I sensed him coming over. I have good peripheral vision (Earnhardt use to say "I can see my ears" LOL) and raced back in the day before spotters.  A driver had to clear himself when passing so with a slight turn of the head you can "see" your relationship to the other car on either side.  I really wanted to get two lanes over to the right when we came up on the traffic stopping as that was the best "way out' but the truck was not slowing, I was and I could not have made it over without him hitting me.  Only option was to slow enough to NOT get hit in the rear from my lane and leave enough room between me and the stopped truck to provide a buffer or escape area should the pile up begin behind me. 

It seemed as though everybody was slowing EXCEPT the big truck.  What surprised me was him locking down the brakes.  When he did I could hear it and that's when I got aggressive on the brake and moved left to give him room. If he had gotten OFF the brake and let to truck roll a bit he could have very easily moved into my lane ahead of me and missed the white pickup in front of him and stopped prior to hitting the signal/sign DOT truck.  But, he turned while the brakes were locked down and that jackknifed him.  At that point he's just along for the ride. 

I've seem far worse crashes than this up close on the race track.  Been part of some, but that's with guys in cars with good roll cages, 5 point harness, wrap around seats and helmets. Even then it's pretty violent but the gear protects you.  I don't regard this as a particularly violent crash but without protective gear the damage can be 10 fold to a person.  When I pulled over and got to the big truck the driver was semiconscious.  He looked dazed and did not respond to anyone, just stared at us.  I didn't go to the little pickup that hit the trailer and suspect he got the worst end of the deal just because it looked like the frame rail of the trailer went into the drivers area at the windshield post.  There were several people already out and around so I just told the Highway patrol dispatcher via the phone the location and that there were several injured.   There was no danger of fire (no fuel leaking) plenty of help on the scene so I left at that point to make my doctor appointment. 

Luck, ... without question.  Divine intervention ... I'd like to think I'm a favored son.  Past experience. .... no doubt about it.  As a police officer I took defensive driving courses several times.  Driving race cars didn't hurt.  The biggest factor IMO is that with life experiences as a cop, pilot and part time racer maintaining situation awareness at all times trumps luck and can make Divine Intervention unnecessary. I know that this particular stretch of I-15 produces accidents just like this 15 times every 24 hours.  Hard to believe but those are the statistics.  87% of those occur in the northbound lane.  This happened at about 2 PM and around 6 AM the same morning there was a fatality a couple of exits up the road.  I can not remember driving this route without seeing some kind of traffic accident. Last week returning home from the same appointment at the VA I went through almost the exact same thing but that time it was a previous wreck and the Highway patrol partially blocking the left lane southbound.  I always prefer the far left lane because there's usually another entire lane to the left that's not used.  It's there so emergency vehicles can move during gridlock.  This way if it looks like I'm about to get hit from the rear I can jump into this lane and perhaps escape the wreck.  Well, this time that lane was occupied by the Police car, a truck pulling a trailer and a car that were involved in a prior accident.  I saw this from a half mile away and began to slow tapping the brake to alert the guy behind me.  He slowed and my lane was under control and alert.  The lane to my right (just like this accident) kept moving as though nothing was wrong.  In about 3-4 seconds I could see all 5 lanes slowing ahead and like the train effect it got more severe the closer we got to the scene.  About this time 4 cars in the lane to my right came by bumper to bumper with the noses almost dragging the ground due to heavy braking.  All 4 were locked up and squalling.  The first slid into the pack and the other three plowed into the whole mess.  It wasn't bad because they had all managed to slow quite a bit and their speed was relative to one another. However, I could see some parts flying and hear the collision.  All of them crunched the front and rear as I passed by.  None of them came out of their respective lane, just another fender bender, so another bullet dodged. 

Over the years I have witnessed plenty of accidents and near accidents as a result of a prior accident being “worked” by the Highway patrol on I-15 and other freeways around the city.  I have often thought about this phenomena and what might be possible solutions to no avail.  

Download YouTube Video

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Close call with Tractor-Trailer

On I-15 in Las Vegas at Sahara Exit northbound. Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) Portable signal truck decided to stop in the left (hammer) lane.

Plenty of traffic moving 65-70MPH with half having nowhere to go. I could see this developing well before the accident and slowed to about 50 when the truck I just passed came flying by me and turned into my lane trying to avoid rear-ending those in front of him. I got on the brakes enough to allow him to clear my front while avoiding getting hit from the rear myself.

He couldn't have missed my front end more than two (2) feet and I'd almost swear the left rear wheel of the trailer went over the top of my right fender. If the guy behind me had hit me and drove me into the trucks path this would have had a very ugly ending for yours truly.