July 02, 2007

RIP Prius (2/2006 - 6/2007)

So obviously I've been suffering from a powerful attack of blogging ennui for quite a while now. I'd reflect on a blogworthy topic or event -- adoption news, our recent vacation in France, local Anaheim politics, a return to the camp where I'd worked for five summers, cute things the Beagles did recently -- and think "I should write something about that!", but I never managed to get up the motivation to actually follow through. Well, thanks to an inattentive driver on the 91 Freeway in Riverside, I've been provided with a supremely motivating event.

Around 2:30 on Friday afternoon I was driving my dad and my brother up to my grandparents' mountain cabin so that we could help out with the (government-required) annual ritual of clearing brush and pine needles from around the building. The 91 is never a great road to drive on Friday afternoons, with miles of tedious stop-and-go traffic. By the time we'd reached Riverside, however, things were moving along pretty good: the road was still crowded, but everyone was moving at freeway speeds of 55-65 mph. Except for one guy -- the guy who happened to be behind us and closing.

One second, everything was normal -- we were halfway through listening to a This American Life episode on summer camp -- and then, suddenly, WHOMP! His mid-80s Taurus wagon hit us square from behind; the force of the collision pushed the front of our car from the fast lane into the carpool lane, where it was hit again by a large truck (something not unlike one of these, with a metal mesh cage as the body in back). And then it was over; our car was perpendicular to traffic, facing the concrete median wall. A white smoke, nasty-smelling and even worse to breathe, hung in the front of the cabin from the deployment of the airbags. My dad, who had been dozing off, was asking what had just happened; my brother was a little dazed. Someone was tapping on my window, asking if we were all right. My door still opened, so I got out and walked around to the passenger side.

The Pictures: For a refresher, here's what the Prius looked like back in its salad days, before it even had a license plate. And here's a photo gallery of what it looks like now.

Amazingly enough, we were all right. The passenger-side windshield was cracked, and my dad seemed disoriented -- but the crack was from the airbag, and the disorientation was because he was searching for the glasses that flew off of his face during the collision. (Turns out they fell into the now-empty cavity left in the dashboard by the deployed airbag.) My brother's door wouldn't open, but he was able to crawl over the front seats and out of the car.

"That guy down there in the white car hit you", said the man who'd knocked on my window, pointing to a Ford Taurus wagon that was all the way over on the right shoulder and several hundred yards down the road. "We've called 911." The fire department and the CHP came right away; they wanted to know what had happened to the people in the blue car (us), and were astounded that we were out of the car and walking around. I asked them to look at my brother first, since he still seemed out of it; he'd gone over to sit down against the median barrier. I walked down the road towards the Taurus to exchange insurance info; a CHP officer met me halfway, collected my driver's license and insurance info, and sent me back over towards my car and the paramedics (it only occurred to me later that he was probably taking advantage of the distance between the various parties to keep us separated and forestall fistfights and whatnot; not that I was feeling inclined that way, but I'm sure it happens pretty often).

The interior of the car stayed pretty much intact, so only after we got out of the car did I realize the gravity of what we'd just been through. My poor car was now a twisted heap of metal and plastic! I'd brought along a bottle of wine, thinking it might go nicely with Friday night dinner; I'd packed it at the very back of the car. The front of the car was leaking antifreeze and transmission fluid; the rear of the car was leaking '05 Ridge Carignane. A CHP cruiser pulled up to my car with its reinforced bumper perpendicular to the drivers-side doors; with tires smoking, he proceeded to push the Prius from the leftmost lane all the way to the right-hand shoulder. Despite the fact that he was pushing my car (!!!!), a certain part of my animal brain couldn't help thinking Awesome, dude!!, in a monster-truck rally sort of way. (And at this point, I was cheering them on to do as much damage as possible; seeing how much damage had already been done, I didn't want any chance of an insurance company claiming that my car could be fixed.)

Since my brother was still feeling a little dizzy from hitting his head on something, and since my left arm had swollen up to Popeye-like proportions, we took an ambulance ride to the nearest ER. (Because of the possibility of a head injury, my brother got the whole backboard and C-collar treatment.) The emergency room was much like any other ER that I've ever been to -- tediously slow and with one crazy guy yelling things from his bed into the hallway. (This guy's chant was "HELP ME! I can't breathe over here! Take me to Veterans'!" -- if you're going to claim that you can't breathe, maybe you should gasp it out, rather than using a full-throated shout, dude ...)

We both got checked out; my brother didn't have a head injury, and my arm was only badly bruised, not broken. While I was waiting to go to X-ray, a CHP officer came by to give me back my license along with a business card for the tow yard that was holding the remains of the Prius. She seemed pretty peeved at the driver who'd hit me; not only was he uninsured (naturally), but he'd also lied to her, claiming that he'd hit us because someone else had run into him from behind -- despite the fact that his car had no rear-end damage! Then she gave me her contact info and the accident report number to pass on to my insurance company.

Once we'd been judged good to go and we'd signed the usual raft of release forms, we went outside to wait for my mom, who had to drive from Orange County through the now-even-worse 91 traffic to come pick us up. I tried to get in touch with Shelby -- she was spending the weekend up in Northern California with our friends Marc and Wendy, who live at a church camp that's in a cell-phone dead zone. I left a message on her cell; I called her dad and had him look up the switchboard number for the camp, as well as E-mailing Shelby and Wendy with a message to call me as soon as possible. I called the main camp number and left a message with the switchboard operator, who was skeptical of my bona fides -- I guess everyone uses the 'wife staying with the camp director and its an emergency' excuse to attempt to get her to page Wendy after hours. (I finally got to talk to Shelby late that night, after I found Marc and Wendy's home number by looking up our long-distance bills online.)

And that's pretty much where things are now. Since the accident happened late Friday, nobody from my insurance company has had a chance to look at the car yet; although I described the damage in detail over the phone, they're still under the illusion that it's a good idea to tow the car 30 miles to a body shop near my house so they can evaluate whether or not it can be repaired! We have collision coverage and an uninsured motorist deductible waiver, so now it's mainly a question of how much the insurance company will try to lowball us on the depreciated value of our car.

Whatever the settlement, we'll definitely be getting another Prius -- after the way that this one gave itself up for us, my brand loyalty is cemented firmly in place (and additionally stapled down, welded, and crazy-glued on top of that). All of the responders -- the firemen, the ambulance EMTs, the CHP, the tow-truck driver -- were astounded that we'd left the car with nothing more than bumps and bruises, asking "and you're the driver?" in a tone that clearly implied that I should have been laid out inside the ambulance, rather than standing next to it. On one level, while I'm so PISSED OFF that one person's stupidity and inattention means endless insurance annoyances and us spending thousands (that we'd so much rather be spending on something else) to buy a second copy of a car we already bought, we all came through unscathed — and that's the important thing, and what more can you ask for than that? I feel lucky and blessed (and give hosannas to modern safety technology!) that we're around to worry about the car and what was inside it, rather than leaving other people to worry about us.

Posted by Kevin at July 2, 2007 09:16 AM

Glad you and your family are OK Kevin!!!!!!!!

You can always get another Prius.

Posted by: Katrina Rosiak at July 3, 2007 06:30 PM

I'm glad to hear everyone is alright.

Did you hear what happened to the other driver.

What did the insurance company end up deciding? I was still undecided on the GAP insurance but my dealership gave it to me for free, hopefully I won't need it.

Posted by: Kacey Green at July 21, 2007 04:57 PM

I'm picking up my jaw off the floor now... I am *so glad* you and your brother and dad are doing well after such a horrible accident. That is incredible. And I'm glad the Prius performed so amazingly well. I'd love to see an update about this when you get a chance!

Posted by: Anita at August 22, 2007 11:47 PM

For anyone who comes across this entry, I've now written Part Two over here.

Posted by: Kevin at August 24, 2007 08:04 AM

Welcome back to blogging.

With the damage on that car, you guys are definitely lucky to have walked away. While I don't care for the Prius, I'm in awe of how well it fared in the accident.

Posted by: J at October 19, 2007 01:39 PM
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