Friday, June 15, 2007

Panic Stop

About an hour ago, I had to swallow my heart to get it back in my chest after having successfully accomplished one of the quickest panic stops I've had to make in 10 years of driving trucks. I was not tailgating, speeding, or being inattentive. I tend to drive slower than most traffic in cities, (and faster than most outside of them). I was in a city (Tulsa, OK), and I was driving slower than traffic. I was watching a long way ahead to be aware of any hazards that might arise, but there was a curve coming up and I couldn't see as far as I would have liked. Although I could see at least ten vehicles ahead of me, I had almost no warning before all of them stopped. Luckily, I had left more room than I thought I needed. I was wrong... I needed almost all of it. It took me about five minutes before I got back to breathing normally.

As it turns out, what I felt was nothing compared to the complete terror that must have nearly consumed the people in the vehicles (pictured below) that were the "cause" of the backup. I don't know, but it looks like those people are ok.

Sorry the pictures aren't very good, but since I needed to get to speed as soon as possible to help ease the backup, and I needed to do it safely, I just held out the camera and clicked, hoping for a good picture or two.

Please, wear your seatbelt, stay *far* behind the vehicle in front of you, and don't take risks to save a few seconds. I see crashes this severe and worse every week, and sometimes more often.

It seems clear from this picture that the crash is the fault of the truck, and likely that's so. But that doesn't mean that there is nothing the cars could have done to avoid this. This was *not* the first crash... vehicles in front of these crashed, causing a panic stop. Likely the van stopped, the black car was almost stopped, and the truck hit them. Had the van and or the car been farther back from the truck in front of them, they all would have had time to stop. You can see that about ten feet more might have done it.

So don't forget - if someone is very close behind you, you need to leave enough room in front for both of you. In this situation keep in mind that the person tailgating you is not a good driver and might need even more space than you would - so you might need more than double.

"Always leave yourself an out." That means always having a place to go to avoid dangers that are in front of you that you can't avoid - and the ones from behind you that aren't your fault but should be your concern.

For example, don't get next to a vehicle, especially a truck, until you can safely get all the way past - don't hang out with other vehicles next to you - they cut off your escape routes almost as certainly as the guardrail in the picture above did.

- Trevor.
Tulsa, OK.


SeaSaw Mom said...

yikes!!! Although it had to have been terribly scary for the drivers and the gawkers and you, I still couldn't hold in an astonished laugh when I saw the van on top of the car. I bet the car driver's shorts WERE NOT clean after that!!!
And PS, just a looks like the guard rail didn't block an escape route I would have wanted to take!!! :)

Trevor said...

LOL! Very good point!

I think I meant that when there's no where to go left or right, you had better have some space in front.

If I had been there, and time had stopped to give me a chance to think things over right before this crash occurred, I think I would have rather taken my chances driving off the bridge than staying between the trucks. BUT - obviously I was wrong, since the passenger compartment on both vehicles seem to be just fine.