I’m switching gears, as it were, and devote this column to an accident I suffered right after New Year’s Day. Although most of us have been involved in accidents, if only minor ones, we are reluctant to use the word “accident.”
The collision lasted mere seconds. I was driving home after doing some errands in town. I live up north. The night had fallen and the weather was rapidly deteriorating. The snow started falling heavily and affecting the visibility, but not to the point of not being able to see.
Minding my own business, I was secure in the knowledge that my trusted F-150 7700 would take me home. Before leaving town, I took the time to clean my front and rear lights and engaged the front-wheel differential.
The 4X4 was holding steady. All was going well. I was climbing uphill on a straight stretch of road inside a small town where the speed limit was 30mph. Doing just under that because of the road conditions, I noticed, without paying too much attention, a car, pulling a snowmobile on a trailer, coming downhill. He had his signal on and was waiting for me to pass in order to cut across my lane to reach a place of business on my side of the road.
As our paths were about to cross, my truck was hit head on by a van that was following the car. Anyone who has been in or near a car accident knows the distinctive sound the crash makes when two vehicles collide.
I never even had time to react.
Instinctively, I knew my truck would not be salvageable because of the force of the impact. Everything in the cab flew toward the front. I had my groceries on the passenger seat and the eggs resting on top ended up on the windshield, on the floor, and even inside the open storage compartment of the door.
WTF was my first thought!
Wondering why that guy had been in such a rush to cut across, I figured he was going to the same place as the first guy. He wasn’t. I stumbled out of the truck, suffering pain at the back of my neck; the effect of the whiplash. My left shin also hurt. My airbags never deployed for some reason, perhaps because my truck was 16 years old? But I was wearing my seatbelt and it saved me from a world of hurt.
That and the 5.4L Triton engine that served as buffer. Buckle up, boys and girls, or get an old Ford with a 5.4!
The occupants of the other vehicle, the driver and his passenger, two young guys, walked out with no apparent injury. They were a bit banged up, but not seriously. The airbags had done their job. I asked the driver what he was doing and he replied that he was going too fast and lost control of his van as he tried to stop before hitting the car and trailer in front of him.
It was a totally preventable accident and anger started swelling up. I wanted to punch the offending driver, but it would have made matters worse. So, I moved away from him and went to look at the damages my truck had suffered. The man driving the small car drove across to his intended destination and called the police. Meanwhile, the passenger in the van was moaning and complaining to his friend, “I told you to slow down, you were going too fast.”
Tow Trucks & Ambulance Drivers
All three of us moved around like zombies walking off the pain and waiting for the cops to arrive. The ambulance showed up first. They checked the other guys and then it was my turn. I was on the phone calling my automobile club to book a tow truck, not knowing the police would call one and the insurance company would pay for it. All the while, the ambulance driver is trying to talk to me and assess my condition.
He has seen the front of my truck and it ain’t pretty.
Annoyed at first, I tell him that I’m okay and I don’t want to go to the hospital. Then I soften my stance and understand that he is only trying to do his job. He says that I may be in shock and the adrenaline is keeping me going.
The police arrive and interview the driver of the van and his passenger.
The driver of the small car with the trailer had remained on the scene and he is a witness. It is now his turn to talk to the police. He saw that the guy behind him was going too fast and tried to pull to his right, hoping the van would pass between us. Of course, with the snow bank on one side and me coming from the other direction, there was not enough room on the road for three cars.
I’m still on the phone, waiting for confirmation on the tow truck. As the policewoman comes over to get my version of events, the ambulance driver tells her I don’t want to be checked or go to the hospital. The tone of his voice clearly lets her know that he disapproves of my decision, and he is probably right. But they cannot force me. Besides, I don’t have any medical insurance, although the other driver’s insurance might have covered the cost.
As the policewoman approaches, I hear that it will take 70 minutes for the tow truck to arrive; busy day. I pull the cell phone away from my head and start bemoaning the fate of my truck. She changes the conversation to help me calm down by saying that’s why we have car insurance and asks if I was calling someone to pick me up. I replied that I was calling a tow truck and that’s when she informed me she had already called a tow truck and it would be covered by the insurance company.
She wants to have my driver’s license, my insurance info, and my registration certificate for her report. She tells me the other driver is 100% responsible. It didn’t make me feel better. We enter the snowmobile shop in front of which it all happened and I hand her my documents. The owner was set to close up shop for the day, but offered to stay open until everything was said and done.
Lonely & Cold
Once in a while, the ambulance driver would come over to see if there was any change. I put my hand on his shoulder to let him know that I was okay. He was genuinely concerned. I had to sign a form to the effect that I had refused to be examined. The guys in the van waited in the ambulance until the tow truck had removed the vehicles. I didn’t want to be anywhere near them, so I stayed out in the cold. The police would give them a ride to town where they were originally going.
I was headed in the opposite direction and managed to call a cab before my cell phone battery died.
The accident lasted seconds but I stood outside in the snowstorm for the better part of two hours. The witness had gone. He would have to come back another day to drop off his snowmobile. The business owner closed up shop. The ambulance driver checked on me one last time. I told him I was still pissed off and he laughed before leaving. The vehicles were moved and the police departed. I stood alone waiting for the cab to arrive.
Whatever groceries had survived would be put in the taxi. A $50 dollar fare to my place.
People told me I was lucky. The guy could have hit the trailer and who knows? The Ski-Doo could have been propelled into my windshield. Despite a sore neck and a shin that was bleeding and swelling up, I still didn’t feel lucky. I’m a car enthusiast. I always take care of my vehicles and they return the favor. Before this truck, I had owned an F-100 and two F-250s. My 7700, an F-250 in F-150 clothing, was working flawlessly, except for the air conditioning.
Does the A/C ever work in older pickups?
Road Trip Reflections
I felt bad, not because I knew that I would never get from the insurance company what the truck was worth to me, but simply because I loved my truck. Although I maintained it, I put it through some difficult situations without intending to. One time, I was off-roading and backed into a rock which dented the rear differential cover. The gear oil leaked a bit. I took the truck to my trusted mechanic who hammered out the cover, put a new gasket in, and the truck was happy again. I remembered the time when I drove cross country with the 8’ bed full and pulling an overloaded trailer.
The F150 didn’t complain. 3,000 mile trip, nary a fly on the windshield. A 30 mile ride home, the truck is toast. Walking away from the truck after the head-on collision gave new meaning to the slogan “Built Ford Tough.”
So, I’ve taken the Mark VIII out of mothballs and I will mourn your passage, trusted truck, until I am ready to purchase another F-150. You deserved a much better fate than having your front end all smashed up, the hood bent, the passenger side fender pushed over the door, and having raw eggs splattered all over your cab. You saved my ass. My neck and leg will heal, and my confidence behind the wheel will return. My memory of you will live on. Thank you!!!
Michael Bellamy is the author of our Memory Lane series. He enjoys driving his 1997 Lincoln Mark VIII LSC and his 2001 Ford F-150 7700.