We recently became aware of a unique auto accident that occurred in New Jersey last month. Apparently, an elderly woman was cruising down the Garden State Parkway when she suddenly noticed a turtle crawling across the road in front of her. She frantically swerved to avoid the animal, and in so doing, caused her car to fly over the embankment on the side of the road. Luckily, she was wearing a seatbelt and escaped with only minor injuries. Ironically, the driver following her car did not see the turtle, and promptly flattened the creature as the woman veered off the road.
While the New Jersey story is perhaps a comically extreme example, the reality is that many similar “panicked reaction” accidents occur on a regular basis. In fact, not even one week after the New Jersey crash, here in the Bay Area, a 25-year-old man was driving southbound on Interstate 880 in Fremont when he swerved to avoid a two-car accident ahead. Unfortunately, his car careened right into the path of a big rig in the next lane. According to Fremont firefighter Jim Martin, although the driver remained conscious as rescue workers extracted him, he was being treated in San Jose for major head injuries at last report.
In accidents like these, it’s often hard to point fingers at either party involved. Although drivers should maintain awareness of what is happening on the roadway ahead, many times—for example, in the case of falling debris mentioned in one of our earlier blog posts —obstacles are legitimately unavoidable. In such cases, we can certainly empathize with those drivers who panic and lose control, and we obviously can’t blame a cautious driver who hits an erratic, out-of-control vehicle. However, we can all take steps to minimize, as much as humanly possible, the risk of such accidents. Most importantly, keep in mind those tips we all learned in drivers’ education: keep a safe distance between yourself and those in front of you, check your rearview mirror, and drive at a 'slow and steady' speed.
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