Accidents Can Be Humbling Experiences

May 23rd, 2014 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Nick KemperDriving to work this morning, I saw an ugly rear-end collision at a freeway interchange. Looked like the vehicle occupants were alright, but a lady was standing outside one of the cars just screaming at someone else. I am guessing she didn’t appreciate the interruption to her morning commute.

I rear-ended someone on my way home from work last year. Wasn’t fun. I was fiddling with my car stereo, trying to skip back to the start of a song. It was a collection of The Who live recordings and Pete Townsend had clearly said something funny, because the audience laughed – well, maybe not that clearly, because I didn’t catch it — so I was skipping back to listen to it again. That’s all it took — looking down for a couple seconds. I never did hear what Pete said. A car a few cars up stopped suddenly to turn left and I had nowhere to go when I looked back up. Luckily, injuries were minor. The lady in the car in front of me did not report any injuries. My forearm was bruised where the airbag struck it. My wedding ring is now bent where it was gripped against the steering wheel when the airbag knocked my arm back. I haven’t had it fixed — I like the reminder to pay better attention to my driving — and my husbanding.

It was a humbling experience. Crashing in a commercial vehicle is worse. I only had one accident in a tow truck that was my fault. I was driving a one-ton Chevy with a Vulcan Cradle Snatcher on a wet day down a busy street and going a little too fast for the conditions, so when a light turned yellow, I didn’t have enough room to stop before reaching the intersection. A woman in a little pickup she had borrowed from her boss, a pastor, to run some errands at lunch time pulled out from the side street and the right front corner of the push bumper hit the pickup’s grill and front bumper. Minimal damage to the tow truck — couple-grand to the pickup. She was okay.

It wasn’t until a few days later when the truck was being serviced that I realized where my mistake had occurred. In the days before the accident, one of the rear wheels had been locking up when I braked a little more suddenly than gradually. Turned out there was an actual problem with the brakes. I had noticed it but hadn’t reported it. Now, my boss might have told me to keep driving it until they could take a look at it, but who knows? Maybe the five-minute conversation with my boss would have put me in a different spot on a different road at the time I couldn’t stop before hitting the pickup in the intersection.

One of the things I have a hard time with is self-discipline — knowing when to take time to save time. I coach youth baseball and I was talking to one of the parents of a child on another team about the attention span of 10-year-olds and she told me about how she would make her kids repeat back to her anything she wanted them to remember. Did they always remember it afterward? No, but they remembered a lot more than they would have without the practice. Sheer genius. Why hadn’t I been doing that with my coaching? Well, because we have two hours for practice, twice a week, and I have to convert a kid with ADHD and no athletic ability into Mike Trout, so how do I have time to make them repeat stuff back to me? Sheesh. How do I have time not to?

Another example: I’ve been walking around all morning with baseball field conditioner in my shoes because we had practice last night and I threw on my shoes this morning and, even though I felt the little granules in there, I was in a hurry to get to work, so I walked around like that for three hours before taking the time to unlace the shoes and dump them out.

The thing about a crushed grill is that it’s much worse than a missed grounder. Now, many drivers I have supervised over the years, if the same thing had happened to them would have said, “It’s not my fault!” The brakes were not functioning properly — how could I have stopped? I was only going maybe five miles over the speed limit, and it was only slightly downhill, and it wasn’t raining hard. I knew something was fishy with the brakes. What if I had had a vehicle on the back — how did I allow for the braking problem with a load? The bottom line is that I didn’t get the brakes looked at until after the accident. So the “accident” was really intentional negligence, with a splash of chance.

So I encourage you to do what I’m now trying to do — repeat back what the little voice in my head tells me to do, then do it.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper

www.TowPartsNow.com