GARYTALK.COM (04/10/2017) – A video someone shared on Facebook reminded me of an incident in my past. The video on Facebook showed a traffic accident in which a driver lost control and was visibly thrown from the car as it went into the ditch at high speed. The man apparently was not wearing a seat belt. The driver was ejected, yet, miraculously, walked away after being assisted by numerous passersby who stopped to help. The video takes my memory back to the early morning I hit a big buck on a lonely northern Wisconsin highway during my drive to work on a radio station morning show before the sun came up several decades ago.
My situation was a little bit different, but I remember the tossing and twisting my body experienced during my high speed accident in the early 1970s. My car ended up in the ditch, too. The big difference: I was wearing a seat belt, which kept me behind the wheel and able to control the path of my car as it careened across the center line after impact, then off the road, ending up straddling a driveway with all four wheels hanging in the air.
The guy in the video was lucky. Other people who have been thrown out of their car when not wearing a seat belt, haven’t fared as well as he. I’m happy to say I was wearing my seat belt when my accident happened years ago, otherwise, I may not have been able to tell the rest of my story.
During my news career, I have reported on many accident scenes in which drivers and passengers lost their lives when tossed out of vehicles at high speed due to not wearing seat belts. The guy in the video was extremely fortunate that he walked away when his car left the roadway at high speed, was tossed about and rolled a couple of times. The way it appeared, the car he was driving could have easily came to rest on his body or crushed his head while laying on the ground in the final seconds.
Even though I lost power steering and power brakes the second I struck the huge, multi-antlered deer, I was able to maintain control in the seconds before it was all over, because I was anchored, securely, in the driver’s seat by my seatbelt. On the way to the ditch, I prevented a head on collision with an oncoming vehicle carrying a family on the way for the start of their summer vacation. The deer went sailing over the oncoming pickup after it left my bumper and instantly killed my power steering and brakes
When the mother, father, and three children, stopped to help me, they found I was shaken up, but, thankfully, unhurt, except for a couple of small scratches on my right hand, where my hand flew off the steering wheel, to the rear view mirror. I wasn’t concerned about the minor injury. My mind was on getting into town to sign on the radio station so I could do the morning show for the audience.
The family graciously postponed their vacation journey and took me into town to my job, before continuing on their way to their vacation destination in Washington, D.C., halfway across the country. As they left me off at the station, I thanked them and wished them well on the remainder of their vacation motor trip as I waved goodbye while they went on their way. I was, and always have been thankful that I was able to say, no one inside the camper top pickup was injured.
After I got inside the building, I turned on the transmitter to warm it up before starting the day’s, morning drive, live, programing. I took a moment to breathe, then called in the accident to authorities on the land line phone. The accident had taken place on a lonely, deserted stretch of highway in the early morning hours. Besides the vacationing family in the oncoming car, and the deer, there had been no other activity on the road before, during and after the accident.
This was way, long before mobile phones, so there was no way to call it in before leaving the scene of the accident. After using the landline phone at the station, I called my friend in the county sheriff’s department. He arranged for a tow truck and the accident report, because he knew I had to get on the air to inform listeners as I did every Monday through Friday morning.
I’m glad I was wearing the seat belt in my burgundy colored, 1968 Plymouth Barracuda, with white bucket seats, white vinyl top and white sidewall tires. Sadly, I had just made the last payment on the vehicle and had put a complete set of new tires on it just a few days before. I was looking forward to driving my ‘Cuda for several more years of payment freedom, but, this incident caused my plans to change.
The body shop company that towed my car in from my accident bought the car from my insurance company and fixed it up for his daughter who was starting college that year. She wanted the car to be a candy apple red. She got her wish after her Dad ordered a complete repaint. The car was still sporting the same new set of four tires, which I had put less than 100 miles on before the accident. I was equally proud of those new tires, because they were the first top quality set of tires I had purchased for any car that were not retreads, but, genuinely, brand new.
I saw my old ‘Cuda sometime later, walked up to it and, gently, touched it, tenderly. I remember wishing I would have had them repair it for me, instead of using the insurance money for down payment on a replacement car. However, I was a family man with a wife and little baby at home, so, I badly needed the transportation immediately to keep my job and bring home that paycheck.
If it could have been worked out so I could keep my job, the ‘Cuda, my wife and young son, I wouldn’t have had them paint it candy apple red. The red on the hood and sides clashed with the burgundy colored, padded dash. I loved that burgundy color on that 1968 Plymouth Barracuda, but, not more than my job, my wife and the little guy at home (not necessarily in that order). As a friend of mine reminded me the other day, “My sympathies on the loss of your ‘Cuda, but so very glad you were okay”. I kind of agree.
GaryWords by GabbyGary at Garytalk.com