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We All Have to Learn

Updated on November 8, 2014
Driving is scary, but you can diminish that fear with awareness, and education.
Driving is scary, but you can diminish that fear with awareness, and education. | Source

Late morning in September, a green Ford Escape Hybrid cruised down Route 10 from Livingston into East Hanover. Basking in the glory and independence of a new license, my friend Rebecca and I decided to celebrate we would go on an impromptu shopping spree in the many strip malls and storefronts East Hanover has to offer. Our first stop, Amazing Savings was a treasure trove of knick knacks and school supplies for dirt cheap prices. But, we weren’t done there. We continued down to 5 Below and Michael’s. Our receipts never added up to anything over ten or fifteen dollars, so we kept trucking down the line from parking lot to parking lot. Our last stop of the day was Target, near Costco. We debated on what to buy, a frozen pizza for dinner? Or a new DVD we had yet to see? We had lunch at the Target’s built in Pizza Hut and made up our minds. After we stocked up on ice cream, soda and random and assorted items, we loaded the car and proceeded to the front of the lot to go home.

Rebecca wanted to go out by the light and come back the way we came, but I told her she couldn’t and we’d have to continue down Route 10. I was wrong, but she listened to me anyway because of whatever reason and neither of us knew we were going the wrong way until it was too late to turn back around. We took a side street exit down past Powerhouse Studios and made a left at the light. I had gone to camp in East Hanover for a few years so I thought I knew my way, but I turned on the GPS to avoid getting lost anyway. When I saw it was a straight line and a turn directly onto Great Hills Road, I turned it off because its nasally robotic voice was interfering with the music anyway.

We drove past big business buildings that reflected light right onto our sunglasses. While Rebecca sported a sophisticated pair of oversized square glasses with a brown tint lens, I wore my silver frame pilot aviators.

Someway or another, we ended up on South Orange Avenue, due to construction the speed limit was reduced to 25mph, but no one cared as they ripped past us, swerving over and around raised manhole covers, honking their horns as if to convince us to speed up and, in turn, break the law.

This is an example of a torn up street waiting to be repaved.
This is an example of a torn up street waiting to be repaved. | Source

...

It was an

accident

waiting

to happen

...

As we approached our turn, distracted by the noisiness of the car I was quick to say “turn here”, but Rebecca was not quick to turn. She brought the car to a complete stop even though the light was green. We were not in the turning lane, but we were intent on taking it to avoid getting lost, so we could go home and watch Avatar. Rebecca crept into the intersection with her right blinker going.

All the drivers at all points of the intersection were well aware we were the fish out of water and though the opposing traffic’s light went green, everyone stood still, seeing who would make the first move. Inching forward little by little, it seemed everyone must have been waiting for us because we were already all the way into the intersection. Rebecca waited another moment or so to check her mirrors before executing her turn. She was hesitant, not accelerating more than 15 miles per hour.

Halfway through the turn, she slammed on the brakes, our seat belts snapped and we both made a half gasp-half something noise. We hit another car. Panic struck, she resumed her turn and pulled over to the side of the road, the Toyota Sienna we hit pulled forward though the intersection. Pausing to catch our breath, Rebecca and I sat in silence for only a few seconds. I broke the stale moment to instruct Rebecca to turn on her hazards and to start looking for her information.

I had been in car accidents before. No more than a week before I rammed my ’95 Chevy into a curb, bending the rim and throwing off the balance and our friend Tim backed his mom’s Hyundai into a retaining wall, but none of us had ever hit another car before.

I thought getting out of the car would help us both, but it did the exact opposite. Seeing the damage to her car, even though it was very little, she began to cry and I began to shake as we turned to see the other driver walking toward us. He was obviously more angry than anything as he yelled “You wrecked a new car. Do you know how much damaged you’ve caused? I can’t believe this!” We couldn’t believe it either, but neither of us said a word to him, we just stood there and took it. Rebecca tried to get out an apology between her sobs, but she could not seem to form words and hid behind he sunglasses instead.

The other driver returned to his car and I immediately began to say we should call somebody. I called my mom first to ask her if she was home and could she come down to help us, but she wasn’t so she sent for my grandfather instead. Rebecca did not want to involve her parents, but I ended up convincing her to call her mother and she did. I had to translate Rebecca’s tears to her mother, but in the end she was more worried about us and our health than anything else.

Source

A Millburn police officer who had been in the Exxon station across from where the mini van was parked pulled up behind it with his lights on. In a frustrated voice the other driver told us to pull out from where we were and park closer to him. He wanted us to go back onto the street and parallel park in front of him, but Rebecca was in no shape to pull off such a technical parking technique. Instead, we pulled into a “Do Not Enter” part of the Tutor Time parking lot, which was closed anyway, and pulled around the side of the building as close to the other car as she could without blocking the actual entrance, in case anyone needed or wanted to come in. The Millburn officer made sure everyone was okay physically as he called for Livingston police.

By then, we had both called all of our parents and my grandfather showed up to help. My grandfather said no more than 10 or 15 minutes ago, he had come through this intersection on his way home from working and nothing was the matter. Every second felt like an eternity to us and it wasn’t until I checked my phone, remembering the text message I had received from Tim within moments of the crash. Leave it to teenagers to mark their lives by what’s in their inboxes.

The Millburn officer pulled away and the mini van pulled into the parking lot. It pulled up beside Rebecca’s car and it was then we got a full fledged look at the damage to the car. We were amazed considering what little damage we had sustained. The entire length of the mini van’s left sliding door had a considerable dent in it. Compared to that Rebecca’s car looked like someone just ran heavy grit sandpaper over the front right tire and pushed in the tire’s protective lip. Rebecca’s car would need a little body work, but the mini van’s door would definitely need to be replaced. We were told that it still opens, so I knew it couldn’t have been that bad, but Rebecca was convinced she’d get the ticket and lose her car and license. Every bad thought that could’ve gone through her head did.

The Livingston officer showed up rather fast and began his interview with the other driver straight away. The man’s wife, who had been in the passenger’s side of the mini van, and my grandfather started talking because she was calmer than her was. She was much easier to deal with and much more understanding. When she noticed that we were new drivers she assured us that this stuff happens, that we were all fortunate no one was hurt, and better drivers have gotten into worse accidents.

I took down the man’s information, and took pictures of Rebecca’s car while my grandfather calmed her down. After the man’s interview was done, the officer motioned Rebecca over and she gave him all her information and her story. The officer never even got out of his car to look at the damage. We turned in a no turning lane, but the mini van was speeding through a red light. He was well aware that everyone was at fault one way or another, so he completed his report and pulled away without giving anyone a ticket. The mini van continued up the highway and we went back to my house.

Rebecca was shaken up and receiving calls every two seconds from another family member asking if she was okay. We immediately sent Rebecca’s mother, who was at family camp for the weekend, all the information we had and the pictures to make the insurance claim as soon as possible. We went inside to watch a movie and eat our weight combined in comfort food. Our friends showed up for support later on.

This was Rebecca’s first accident ever and as a driver, and it was my first accident of this magnitude sitting in the passenger seat. Though I looked composed, I was in shock from how close I was to where the two cars met. From when contact was made until we turned the car I felt like the world was in slow motion. It was like I saw every ripple her car made in his and I felt as if all the pressure from the crash shifted into my body. The world sounded muted, as if I was wearing ear muffs, and at one point I could have sworn I was floating. It was a terrible experience, but I know both Rebecca and I grew as people and drivers that day. It was a wake up call, to remind us that life is not all rainbows and unicorns. Life has the potential to be very dangerous and as soon to be seniors we needed to learn that.

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A Millburn police officer who had been in the Exxon station across from where the mini van was parked pulled up behind it with his lights on. In a frustrated voice the other driver told us to pull out from where we were and park closer to him. He wanted us to go back onto the street and parallel park in front of him, but Rebecca was in no shape to pull off such a technical parking technique. Instead, we pulled into a “Do Not Enter” part of the Tutor Time parking lot, which was closed anyway, and pulled around the side of the building as close to the other car as she could without blocking the actual entrance, in case anyone needed or wanted to come in. The Millburn officer made sure everyone was okay physically as he called for Livingston police.

By then, we had both called all of our parents and my grandfather showed up to help. My grandfather said no more than 10 or 15 minutes ago, he had come through this intersection on his way home from working and nothing was the matter. Every second felt like an eternity to us and it wasn’t until I checked my phone, remembering the text message I had received from Tim within moments of the crash. Leave it to teenagers to mark their lives by what’s in their inboxes.

The Millburn officer pulled away and the mini van pulled into the parking lot. It pulled up beside Rebecca’s car and it was then we got a full fledged look at the damage to the car. We were amazed considering what little damage we had sustained. The entire length of the mini van’s left sliding door had a considerable dent in it. Compared to that Rebecca’s car looked like someone just ran heavy grit sandpaper over the front right tire and pushed in the tire’s protective lip. Rebecca’s car would need a little body work, but the mini van’s door would definitely need to be replaced. We were told that it still opens, so I knew it couldn’t have been that bad, but Rebecca was convinced she’d get the ticket and lose her car and license. Every bad thought that could’ve gone through her head did.

The Livingston officer showed up rather fast and began his interview with the other driver straight away. The man’s wife, who had been in the passenger’s side of the mini van, and my grandfather started talking because she was calmer than her was. She was much easier to deal with and much more understanding. When she noticed that we were new drivers she assured us that this stuff happens, that we were all fortunate no one was hurt, and better drivers have gotten into worse accidents.

I took down the man’s information, and took pictures of Rebecca’s car while my grandfather calmed her down. After the man’s interview was done, the officer motioned Rebecca over and she gave him all her information and her story. The officer never even got out of his car to look at the damage. We turned in a no turning lane, but the mini van was speeding through a red light. He was well aware that everyone was at fault one way or another, so he completed his report and pulled away without giving anyone a ticket. The mini van continued up the highway and we went back to my house.

Rebecca was shaken up and receiving calls every two seconds from another family member asking if she was okay. We immediately sent Rebecca’s mother, who was at family camp for the weekend, all the information we had and the pictures to make the insurance claim as soon as possible. We went inside to watch a movie and eat our weight combined in comfort food. Our friends showed up for support later on.

This was Rebecca’s first accident ever and as a driver, and it was my first accident of this magnitude sitting in the passenger seat. Though I looked composed, I was in shock from how close I was to where the two cars met. From when contact was made until we turned the car I felt like the world was in slow motion. It was like I saw every ripple her car made in his and I felt as if all the pressure from the crash shifted into my body. The world sounded muted, as if I was wearing ear muffs, and at one point I could have sworn I was floating. It was a terrible experience, but I know both Rebecca and I grew as people and drivers that day. It was a wake up call, to remind us that life is not all rainbows and unicorns. Life has the potential to be very dangerous and as soon to be seniors we needed to learn that.

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    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 4 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Scary, but at least no one got hurt.