The road that runs in front of my house is a two-lane, winding road that shouldn't be as busy as it is, but a lot of chemical plant workers use it as a route to avoid an even busier four-lane highway east of us. The four-lane highway runs in roughly the same direction, only in a straight line.
There are only two places on the map where those two long roads are connected by shorter ones. The shortest linking road is extremely busy, too, as long lines of plant workers use it to make their way from the winding road to the main road and access to I-10. One end of the shortest linking road is near my house. The other end, a half-mile away, is the scene of a future fatality. Unless a traffic light is installed there soon, it's just a matter of time until someone is killed.
It's nearly impossible to turn left at that T-intersection, because a couple hundred yards to the left is an Interstate 10 exit, spilling a steady flow of cars and trucks down the off-ramp to merge with heavy traffic on the main highway. Traffic has always been a problem at that spot, but the Hurricane-Katrina-induced migration to this area has increased it to a volume our existing roads aren't capable of processing. I almost never attempt to turn left there.
Straight across the main road from the linking road which tees into it is a new McDonald's restaurant. I'd like to go there more than I do (especially during McRib season), but getting across the main road is almost as difficult as turning left onto it. In fact, having the McDonald's at that spot has made the traffic problems worse. Some people will risk their lives for a Big Mac or a Happy Meal.
The safest way to get from the linking road to the main road is a right turn, and even that requires good luck and excellent timing. Yesterday, one of those elements must have been missing.
I waited in the right-turn lane for several minutes for a break in traffic so I could make a quick turn and go back to work after lunch. Just when I thought I could make it, just when I moved forward about five feet, a truck next to me in the left-turn lane pulled out a few feet and came to a screeching halt. I couldn't see around him to see why he was stopping, so I stopped, too, to be safe. Unfortunately, the driver of the pickup truck behind me must have been looking at the screeching truck, too, because he plowed right into my rear end.
We were traveling at such slow speeds that there wasn't any damage except for some of his white paint ending up on my smoke-colored bumper. That and a couple of very tiny scratches. No dents, thank goodness. I think most of the "skidmarks" on my bumper can be polished out. (Tip: A well-maintained coating of dirt and road film apparently provides protection for a vehicle's paint job in the event of a collision.)
The young man who hit me turned out to be a neighbor whose younger brother is a friend and teammate of my grandson. He came out of his truck with his driver's license and insurance documents in his hand (he knew the drill so well I suspect this wasn't his first accident), and the first words out of his mouth were, "Are you okay?" He couldn't have been nicer or more respectful, and I was so happy not to have to deal with a jerk at a time when my nerves were rattled.
We surveyed the damage (none to his truck, just what I've described above to mine) and the injuries (none to either of us) and exchanged identification and insurance company information. We discussed whether we should report the accident to the police. I decided it wasn't worth it, and that seemed more than okey-dokey with him. As a matter of fact, there were sheriff's deputies almost within shouting distance, directing traffic because an existing traffic light had malfunctioned. They appeared to have all they could handle right at that moment, and I was already late to work.
Having worked for an attorney for years, I've often wondered if some people exaggerate their injuries in a rear-end collision. I felt fine at the scene of the accident, but later, near bedtime, I was shocked at how stiff and sore my neck and shoulders were from that tiny jolt. I'm fine today, but it helped me to appreciate that a more severe whiplash injury could do some lasting damage.
Interestingly, my older daughter had an almost identical accident last year, rear-ended as she turned right from the I-10 off ramp just beyond the corner where I had my accident yesterday. She and I talk frequently about the need for a light at that intersection, but I don't know how many collisions will have to happen before we get one.
We were both lucky. Someday someone won't be.