Just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, heading north on Route 29 there is a notorious stretch of road. There are two lanes of traffic, lots of volume coming out of Charlottesville, a series of badly-timed traffic lights, and rolling hills that limit forward visibility. Often, as I pass through that area, a leisurely 30-45 miles-per-hour drive turns to a sudden stop and a few heart-wrenching seconds where you wonder if the drivers of the cars behind you have been as alert as you have been.
Today, as Melissa and I passed through the area on this dangerous stretch of road, it was a fairly standard string of events. We were driving at about 35 or 40 miles-per-hour in a long mass of cars, minding our own business, when one of the badly timed lights turned red somewhere up ahead and everybody in front of us came to a sudden, unexpected stop. I, of course, applied the brakes on my Mazda Tribute SUV [strongly] and came to a stop at an appropriate distance behind the car ahead of me. Immediately, I looked in the rear-view to make sure people behind us were stopping as well.
The gentleman in the Cadillac 4-door sedan behind us stopped close, but not too close.
The gentleman in the Volkswagen Jetta behind the Cadillac hit the Cadillac, pushing it a foot or two forward (and thus very, very close to the rear-end of our Mazda).
The cars in front of me started to move forward and, fearing more chain reaction accidents, I started to move forward too. Good thing, because . . .
The lady in the Volvo SUV behind the VW slammed into the VW . . . hard . . . pushing it again into the Cadillac and pushing the Cadillac into the space my Mazda had vacated seconds before, again, stopping mere inches from my bumper.
With adrenaline rushing—but, luckily, not a scratch on my car—I pulled off to the side, made a 9-1-1 call to get emergency services moving (seeing some pretty mangled cars behind me), and went to make sure everybody was okay and see if I could render any assistance. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries, so nobody needed any real help ;-).
The Volvo SUV had an airbag deployment, and the Jetta was pretty badly mangled on the front and the back [likely totaled, but no airbag deployment], but everybody walked away from the accident uninjured or with nothing more than minor scratches/bruises.
The woman driving the Volvo SUV was transported to the hospital (I believe as a precaution, especially given that her airbag went off). A nice police officer took a brief statement and my contact information and promised to try to set it up so I wouldn’t have to be subpoenaed for any court proceedings, but—obviously—he couldn’t make any promises, and I think I was the only witness that stopped and hung around.
I don’t know who was charged, if anybody, though I would guess that the VW driver and/or the Volvo driver will be charged with ‘following too closely’. I feel especially bad for the gentleman driving the Cadillac, as the rear of his car was pretty badly messed up . . . and he hadn’t done anything wrong! After all, he stopped without hitting me and had enough room that the first impact didn’t even push him into me!
All-in-all, an interesting/exciting end to a fun weekend visiting family and friends. I feel bad for the folks who had their cars messed up, but I also thank God that my car wasn’t involved! I don’t feel like dealing with insurance companies today!