Sunday, July 18, 2010

Well, That's One Way To Wake Up Early

Early this morning, around six, I was half awake, half dreaming about the run I was going to go for in a few hours time. As I enjoyed the morning breeze sweeping through my open window and the squashiness of my pillows, I heard screaming, tires screeching, swerving and a crash.

The house I live in is along a fairly major road. It's a two lane road, hardly wide enough for two small cars, with a river on one side and a line of houses on the other, but it is a very busy road. Our house is set back about twenty feet from the road by a gravel area where we and our neighbors park our cars. The speed limit is twenty-five miles an hour, but from the late night until the early morning I hear cars driving past at way faster than twenty-five.

That's what first pulled me out of my half awake state. The rush of a car going entirely too fast. I had thought two cars crashed into each other, or into our parked cars, or into our neighbor's house.

Maybe there were two cars at some point, but there was actually no crash and, at first, no car.

I ran into my mom's room first, fearing for one stupid moment that a car had crashed through her front-facing bedroom (not thinking about the fact the house would have shook or anything). She was at the window pulling on a bathrobe with haste, watching a neighbor sprint to the scene. We ran out of the house, but saw no cars. Then we saw other neighbors across the river, leaning over their fence, yelling down to someone.

A girl had swerved off the road and into the river.

Lucky for her, the river had dried up so much that it was only two feet or so deep. The first neighbor was already down in the river, pulling the girl out of the car. She was terrified, but otherwise unharmed. And, miraculously, so was the car. She had definitely driven through a line of slim trees, but her car somehow managed to stay perfectly upright. It looked like she had been hovering above the water and then gently dropped into it.

For the next three hours, medics, fire men, police and tow trucks crowded in front of our house. The girl says there was a dog in the road and that's why she swerved. Maybe that's true, but if she had been following the speed limit she wouldn't have had to brake or turn so drastically.

I'm not a saint when it comes to following the speed limit or anything, but this road is tiny, consists almost entirely of sharp turns and is just feet away from houses (not to mention the river). There's even an oversized yellow sign that the girl passed soon before she crashed that says "SLOW DOWN: BLIND DRIVE."

Even though I often go below twenty-five just to make sure I don't run into an oncoming car around the many blind turns, I can understand not heeding the signs or feeling invincible. Everyone feels that way some or most of the time. You're late for an appointment, you're familiar with the bends in the road, you have to return that call, you're feeling daring, someone's tailgating you or you missed the last reduced speed sign.

But at what cost?

If she had decided to swerve the other direction, my next door neighbor and his two young children could be dead now. My neighbor must have thought of the same thing because, after the road was reopened and the car pulled out of the river, a suburban zoomed past and I heard my neighbor stop the driver and shout at him for exceeding the speed limit.

I am beyond relieved that absolutely no one was harmed, but I've only been here a month. Who knows how often this happens? Who knows how many people have died on this road or how frequently accidents take place? I'd wager quite often. And who knows how it will end next time?

No comments: