Sunday, May 6, 2007

Accident update

Thank you, again, everyone who gave sympathy and expressed concern (and welcome, Julia). Especially for those of you who know A., she is mostly okay, but she's still very much looking forward to seeing the chiropractor on Wednesday. I thought she'd get in sooner, but apparently because insurance is involved, there's a set format the visits need to follow and they can't just squeeze her in. Meanwhile, her neck does seem to be bothering her less, and her spirits are better. She's been getting more sleep than usual, which helps.

She stayed home Thursday, the day after the accident--those of you who know her will know how badly she was feeling to give in and do this--but unfortunately much of the day was consumed in dealing with the logistical aftermath and clearing out our car. I feel bad for letting this fall to her, but I really had not been at work enough lately to take the whole day off. A. went back to work on Friday (a half day for students).

On Friday I had a physical scheduled, and it wasn't until I was two blocks into my three-block walk that I realized our garage is right next to the doctor. Have I lived here for 8 years? Yes. Have I used this garage and this family practice this entire time? Yes. Was I in denial? You decide.

As it turns out the doctor's office didn't think I had a physical, so after [re]scheduling one for next week, I stopped in to see the car, figuring that must be what the universe wants, right? I had decided not to look at it, and A. thought that it was better for both of us if I didn't, but then I went and walked right by it, twice, and the gravitational pull of seeing the back of the car from the street was just too much to resist.

A. had described the car as "shorter," and that's fairly accurate. The space between our front license plate and the engine was reduced by about two-thirds or more, I'd say. The damage to the front end was both better and worse than I'd imagined. The right headlight was cracked, and the whole front fender was pressed flush against the engine block, but there were no accordion folds and the damage to the rest of the car was only what was there before the accident, the stuff I'd procrastinated on fixing. I was impressed with Honda's engineering. It was also strange to open the door and have the newly non-functional car beep at me in that endearing, "the key's still in the ignition, you doofus" way that it has.

None of this got to me.

What did, what actually shocked me were the deployed airbags, especially the driver's side one. I saw the airbag burns on A., I know she was spared much worse injury because of them, but even though I prepared myself for seeing the front-end damage, it didn't occur to me I would see the airbag until I was actually looking at it pouring out of the steering wheel of our car. The passenger's side one had also deployed, but it seemed theoretical, since no one had been sitting there. The sight of the one on A.'s side made me stop to catch my breath. And make a mental note to thank my father.

I know what went into that airbag being there. Most of the time I was growing up, my father worked for the Department of Transportation, and one of his ongoing projects was the fight to make passive restraints mandatory. Not that he was the only one working on it, but it took a lot of doing. Automakers resisted vigorously, even though the technology (airbags) had been around since the late 60's. Now recall when your steering wheel first got that big, airbag-in-the middle shape.

I'll pause to let that one sink in.

The industry feared that if they acknowledged how dangerous cars are, we would stop buying them. That's right, they thought that the risk of death in collisions was some kind of trade secret.

On a slightly cheerier note, I now have an inventory of the things that live in our car, other than junk. All of this is now in the foyer:

a second-hand Maclaren stroller
a second-hand Brita carseat (actually, this is in the rental)
a mirror-thing that hangs in front of the carseat to distract the offspring (ditto)
a telescoping mirror that suctions to the windshield, for viewing the backseat
a first-aid kit
a telescoping shovel
an ionizer that plugs into the power point
two cell phone chargers, one for a phone we've lost
two ice scrapers
a partially-used gallon of windshield fluid (this is actually in a closet, away from dogs and toddlers)
a bottle of Windex
one mylar folding screen for the windshield, needing to be replaced
a membership decal to a local arrboretum
a club
a handful of cd's
two sheets appropriate for dogs to sit on (actually in the dryer, waiting to be folded and returned to the foyer)
two spare leashes
an extra dog dish for water
maps for the northeast and midwest (we haven't lived in Wisconsin for 2 1/2 years)
myriad pens and pencils
and, last but by no means least, our E-ZPass tag

A lot of furnishings for a small space, no?

The insurance has totaled the car, as expected. We'll get about $12,500 for a car we bought new 4 years ago. My mother helped my sister shop for a similar car about a year ago (really--my sister's car is identical to ours in everything but color), and thinks this isn't a bad deal, so I guess it isn't. We won't see the check for another week or so, but I called the Honda dealer that sold us our car and they have both Civic and Accord hybrids on their used (oops, "pre-owned") lot. With luck, I may even be able to get a manual drive.

Right now we've got a rental PT Cruiser, which is about the most awkward car I've ever been in.


niobe said...

Honestly, I've always wondered about how useful airbags really are. Your post -- and A.'s relative okayness -- reassures me that they can be, quite literally, lifesavers.

But I've always been terrified that the airbag itself would injure me more than any potential accident. Though that's probably because I'm so small that, technically, I should still be riding in a booster seat in the back of the car.

Lo said...

FWIW, we got our pre-owned car for slightly less than the figure you named (though admittedly it is not a hybrid). but it does have fancy new-fangled things like a CD player.

So glad A. is okay and also glad she is getting to the chiropractor. More hugs. Gentle ones.

The most awkward car we ever rented was a Nissan Murano. Neither of us had ever driven an SUV before, and I felt bad for the car that it had denied its Judaism for all those years. Perhaps driving it to a Bat Mitzvah helped.

liz said...

Um...please get a new child safety seat. If the safety seat was in the car at the time of the accident, then it may be damaged or stressed and not as effective in another accident.

Niobe, if you're sitting less than 10-12 inches away from the steering wheel, you can apply for an airbag on/off switch through the NHSTB. It'll take 2 or 3 tries and maybe the help of your congressional representative, but they can be installed for about $100, once you get permission.

Hugs and hope that A feels better soon.

S. said...

Niobe, I think in general if you're able to see over the dashboard without a booster (my diminutive grandmother always sat on a little folded pad while driving), you're okay with an airbag, but set the seat back as far as you can and drive with your hands at 9 and 3, not 10 and 2.

Lo, you made me laugh--I hope A. lurked after you commented!

Liz, I do think from looking at the car (and the belts holding the carseat) that the seat didn't absorb much force. That part of the car wasn't hit, the seat wasn't thrown around at all, and no one was in it to be thrown against it, but we'll investigate further. My father is a good source of advice on topics like this, as you might imagine. (Hey, maybe insurance will cover it--they'll cover new prescription sunglasses for A., since hers were thrown off and damaged past use by the airbag.)

liz said...

Doh! Of course you'd know about the safety seats.

I had to get the on/off switch for the Ford Taurus when I had one, 'cause I sat about 6 inches from the air bag in order to reach the pedals. Love my Sedona, which lets me reach the pedals and remain a good distance from the steering wheel.

Julia said...

I was worried about the car seat too, but of course your dad would know.

I drive a Volvo. I would love to drive a hybrid, but I am paranoid about safety, and our old Volvo proved its worth to us by deploying only the airbags that were needed in a very bad crash we were in, and letting us walk away without a scratch. So I keep hoping Volvo starts making hybrids.

S. said...

Liz and Julia, thank you for being worried for Z. in her seat. Since visiting my father at his office meant walking down a corridor decorated with pictures of car crashes, both actual and engineered, I was raised in an atmosphere of high automobile safety awareness. I respect it when I see it in others.

Dad asked about the belts. Since they look fine, he thinks it's okay. Kind of like a bike helmet in a crash where you scrape up your leg but don't hit your head.

Magpie said...

Good luck getting a stick shift! They seem to be fewer and farther between.

Glad A. is okay - sounds horrific - "the car got shorter" is a particularly horrifying image.