CHOICE: Ditch or Die?

I haven't seen any news reports or other posts about this incident (because miraculously no one was injured - none of the cars were even clipped as far as I know), but as I was driving home from Rochester Hills on Saturday July 16th around 5 pm I had my first experience avoiding what would have otherwise been a full head-on collision.

I had just gone through a 4-way stop, turning from 29 Mile Road northbound onto Romeo Plank, when a black SUV pulled out of the line of oncoming cars into my lane.  It was far enough ahead that at first I thought it was just turning into one of several residential driveways on the right side of the road.  I noticed, eased up on the gas...and the SUV kept coming!

I remember thinking, "He's going to hit me head-on!"

My first split-second escape reaction was to pull to the left, but realizing that there was a solid line of moving traffic there, I slammed on the horn and on the brakes and swerved hard to the right instead, onto a narrow gravel shoulder that wasn't wide enough for my minivan just above a deep, steep ditch.  My nose was pointing steeply down and I remember hypothesizing that if the SUV so much as bumped me as it went past (or slammed into me, since it was still veering towards me) I was going to roll, probably to land upside down at the bottom of the ditch or on the lawn adjoining it.  Better to do so from a standstill, I thought as I flinched away as far as possible from my fully open window.

Instead, the driver of the black SUV finally seemed to realize what was going on and straightened course at the last second, whizzing past me with inches to spare and squealing past both me and the pickup truck behind me which had also managed to pull off the road.  In the clear space behind us, the driver of the SUV must have finally hit the brakes, because there was a screech of tires and the SUV did a doughnut in the road until its front wheels hit the shoulder and it swung around to a stop - facing the same direction I was.

Still not sure if anyone had been hit or hurt, I managed to pull my front wheels around, drive out of the lip of the ditch, and pull ahead past a driveway to where the shoulder was wider, where I parked and turned off the car.  In the rearview mirror I could see other cars stopping in the other lane, and people getting out to check on the cars in the affected lane.  There had been no crashing noise, though - the distinctive CRUNCH-tinkle of crumpling metal and showering glass.  I didn't know if I needed to call the police, an ambulance, or what.  I was shaking so badly I didn't want to get out of the car unless I had to.  In just a few minutes I saw people getting back into their cars and moving on, so I assumed that the driver of the SUV was okay and had managed not to actually hit anyone or anything.  Two cars paused beside me to ask if I was all right - a man with a reddish beard who said the other driver was "probably texting" and a couple in a pickup truck, possibly the one from right behind me.  I waited on the shoulder until the pulled over cars from behind me had pulled out and passed me, and even until more cars from behind the traffic light had begun to continue.  The driver of the black SUV never stopped to see if anyone was okay, and I never saw if it was a man or a woman.  The SUV headed north, past me, and eventually it turned off.

I think the thing that saved a lot of potential damage was the fact that this happened so close to the 4-way stoplight.  Because of the turn schedule, only one or maybe two cars had had a chance to come through it after I did, and they were fairly well spaced.  There was enough room in the road for an SUV to do a full doughnut in the northbound lane, even though the southbound lane was full of vehicles.

I may never know what that other driver was thinking or doing - drugs, drunk, texting, falling asleep, playing Pokemon Go - but I am grateful that I was able to swerve in time.  I'm grateful to the driver of the pickup truck behind me for reacting quickly enough not to smash into my back, turning me into a potential minivan sandwich - or a corpse that my newly ordained brother would have had to say a funeral Mass for instead of celebrating with his home parish and going north for Boys' Camp.  I appreciate the concern of the people who asked if I was all right; grateful that my Dad and brothers keep my car in good shape.

And in the end, I guess I wish the other driver had stopped to check up on the people he or she nearly killed.  But they didn't.  I guess I'll say a few prayers for them instead - and lots more in thanksgiving to all the Guardian Angels involved.

Holy Guardian Angels, pray for us!
St. Christopher, pray for us!
Our Lady of the Way, pray for us!

Safe driving this summer to all my vacationing friends.


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