When I had my first car accident at the age of 21, I also had my first panic attack.
And for the year or so afterward, I became an extremely jumpy driver. Sometimes, I still am. Sometimes, it pays off.
On my drive home from North Carolina yesterday, I noticed a weird sound to my left. As our wheels sped along at 75 miles an hour, the back right tire on the SUV next to me was uneven hitting the pavement, producing a rapid thumping.
I slowed down, letting the SUV get in front of me a bit and congratulating myself on getting my car checked and tires rotated before my 1,000-mile round-trip journey.
And then the SUV’s thumping tire blew out.
The car swerved back and forth as the driver tried to correct his steering — too much for it to handle, evidently: the SUV spun a complete 360-degree circle — in the middle of I-81 — before coming to a stop on the right-hand shoulder.
Luckily, traffic was slight. I braked hard, watching the accident unfold before me and passing the SUV safely at about 25 miles an hour after it had come to rest on my right. A quick glance in the rear view mirror told me nothing was aiming to slam my back bumper, and the danger had passed.
But had I been neck and neck with the car as its tire exploded? I’m not so sure it would’ve remained a one-car accident.
Two cousins of mine are turning or have turned 16 this year, which led to a few heated discussions on vacation about rules about driving. I remember my own fights against my parents — my adamant decision to drive to school in a morning of slush and snow nearly ended in a collision with a school bus.
But looking back, I realize my parents were right to want to be with me in snowy conditions before I tackled them alone. Because experience counts for a lot — had I ignored my driving paranoia, I might not have slowed down for the thumping tire yesterday.
Have you had any scary driving experiences that you’ve learned from? Share your story in a comment below.