Learn from others’ mistakes

By Camille Shooshani

My first thought after ramming the hood of my car into an Audi S5 at 30 mph was “I’m going to be late for school.”

A few seconds later, after I felt the the full impact of what had just happened, I started to panic. I pulled over as carefully as I could and jumped out of the car, apologizing over and over again to the middle-aged man whom I had rear-ended. There was not much damage, but, of course, I began to cry.

It seemed so stupid. In March, I had moved on from being afraid of every car on the road and graduated to driving with a newfound sense of arrogance. I had been fussing with the radio and my attention was drawn away from the road for a second. The result: thousands of dollars in damages for what looked like a dent, and aftershocks that would plague me for months.

First, my insurance rate went up by $600 a year. My parents pay the same amount for my individual insurance as they pay for four other cars combined. According to my insurance company, my rate will not lower until I turn 26, providing I do not get into any more accidents.

My parents paid to repair the damages to the Audi right after the accident, but months later when I began to think I could forget about the ordeal, the man I hit demanded over $50,000 in conpensation, claiming his car was totaled, even though he just seemed annoyed when I hit him. I had to tell Department of Motor Vehicles about the damages, but they misreported my accident, so I still need to go to the DMV and clean up after this mess in person.

I was too scared to drive for two weeks, and when I finally did, I reverted to fearing left turns and freeways as if it was my first week driving. Afterwards, the “what ifs” of my accident played over and over again in my head.

What if my lapse in attention had led me to hit a pedestrian rather than a car? What if I hit the car a bit harder and injured the driver? Cars are dangerous, and it is so easy to forget their potential to change lives permanently. A mobile ton of metal is a weapon of mass destruction. My small moment of irresponsibility could have killed someone.

It has been a year since I got my license and seven months since my accident. The fact that I still deal with the drama of something so long ago frustrates me. Did I really deserve this for getting annoyed with a song on the radio?

It is scary how many new drivers get in accidents. Almost every person I know with a license has been involved in at least scratching another car, but no one to wants to talk about it. It is seen as an embarrassing part of our lives that we would rather never speak about again.

I am guilty of trying to ignore my faults as a driver too, but every person I have talked to who has been in an accident has explained how much they have learned from it. It seems that if people talked about their experiences rather than tried to hide them, more people would understand the gravity of car accidents.

The truth of the matter is, before my accident, I had no idea what it meant to hit someone. I had heard something about license, registration and insurance, but I never paid attention. The ordeal probably could have been prevented had someone told me of his or her own nightmare and warned me about losing focus on the road.

Talk about your accident. Hearing the protocol for how to respond is not the same as hearing a friend’s trauma from a personal experience.

Everybody learns something from such a stressful and dangerous experience, whether it is to slow down or to pay better attention. It is not something to be ashamed of, because everybody gets distracted. Share your experience and explain the consequences. Help your friends avoid the same distress.