This afternoon Wisconsin saw its first real snow of the season. We had some dustings a few weeks back, but nothing that stuck. The snow doesn’t bother me too much, for the most part. It can be inconvenient, sure, but I make do, and don’t really mind it. Today, though, I could have done without it.
Today, I got into my first accident.
I’ve been driving for 10 years, and have a spotless record, to boot. The worst I’ve done is get a single parking ticket in Madison when I stopped to pick up a study partner. That all changed today. I got done with work at my client’s office in Waukesha about half an hour after the snowfall really started to stick to the roads. I took things slow, took the freeway home, as I always do, and got off on Moorland Rd. Every stop along the way was just fine: you go a little slower, take your turns carefully, and start braking well before you need to.
When I came up to Cleveland Rd I made my way up the hill and into the right turn lane as I crested the top. Between the snow and coming up the hill, I was probably going 20-25 mph. I started to slow as I made my way to the light, when all of a sudden I wasn’t slowing down anymore and had a truck stopped at the light ahead of me. I faithfully tried the brakes more when I realized there was no stopping. Although my speed had slowed, I could feel the wheels slipping across the surface of the road. The slush and snow being churned up by the cars had started to freeze, and I found myself right on top of it.
That was the worst feeling in the world, seeing the truck getting ever closer and not being able to do a thing about it. I slid across the slick surface at, I’m guessing, 5 mph, maybe 10, and bumped into the back of the Ford Super Duty pickup truck. The Cube jolted a bit with the impact, but the truck seemed pretty unfazed. He sat there for a moment, then turned onto the street we were both heading on, with me following. He turned right again into the entrance of a bank and business complex, and we got out, made sure we were both okay, and assessed the damage done.
The Cube faired a lot better than I was expecting. After all, I drive a box on wheels and just rear-ended a pickup truck. Fortunately, I think narrowly missed the trailer hitch jutting out from the truck’s end (we’re talking off by maybe three inches). Had it been the Cavalier a whole lot more of the front end would have wedged underneath the truck. The guy’s truck suffered some damage to the trailer brake light hookup next to the hitch, as well as some minor damage to the bumper.
I called the police, and an officer came out and asked each of us if we thought our vehicles sustained more than $1,000 in damage – apparently that’s the threshold for filing a report in Wisconsin. I, frankly, hadn’t a clue, but it certainly didn’t look like that much. The guy said something along the lines of “No, but I think it’s at least that,” to which the officer replied, “Well… you think it’s equal to or more than $1,000, or equal to or less than $1,000?” The guy thought it’d be at least that, then the officer was convinced as well, considering labor, so a report was filed. The officer remarked a few times how it’s alright and these things happen and made a comment about how the weather gets bad and “people forget how the brakes work.” I didn’t forget! He said they even had a squad car end up in the ditch.
We went back to our cars and each filled out a statement (which wasn’t as clear as it could’ve been at the time, perhaps), then the officer came over and said, “Obviously it was your fault,” and laughed (but not in a dickish way). I mean, I did rear-end the guy, ice or not. Then he let me know I’d be receiving a citation in the mail for $88 or $104, he wasn’t sure, but I’d be able to fight it. And fight it I will. I know I hit the truck, but I’m not sure I could have done anything differently given the conditions. I thought I was driving pretty safe, but maybe I could have stopped sooner. Or perhaps not. We’ll never know! I am thankfully it wasn’t worse than the (relatively minor) damage it was. On the way back I passed a van sitting on someone’s lawn with a tow truck nearby, then a few miles down three cars on one side of the road, and two more on the other. So, yeah, it could have been worse.
Once I got home I called up insurance, but the guy had already filed a claim 5 minutes earlier. He also told the insurance company his neck was stiff… Given the speed at impact, and how his truck didn’t seem to budge, I’m not sure about that. I know a lot of people do get stiff necks shortly after a collision, but all things taken into account it would seem unlikely, but maybe! Regardless, I do hope he is fine. An assessor is coming out tomorrow morning to check out the damages to the Cube, and I should be receiving my papers from the police station by next week. All in all I feel like crap: guilt, anger, frustration that it happened, but also thankful it was a minor as it was. Everything will get resolved in time, and I shouldn’t beat myself up over it. Just gotta make sure to take it slow, and realize that, sometimes, accidents do happen.