A few minutes ago I witnessed my first fatal car crash. It was only moments ago and I’m afraid I’ll be thinking of it all night, maybe longer.

I was perfectly situated, stuck in traffic on Phoenix’s I-10 freeway, when a car on the other side of the highway came plunging toward us like a rocket. It was moving so fast, I wondered where it would end up, if it would smash into us. The guard rail isn’t a wall, but rather a set of very thick wires. When the front of the car hit the wire, it actually sheared off the top of the car. I watched in amazement as the windshield and the roof of the car and the back windshield simply disintegrated, knowing that whoever was behind the wheel had to have been decapitated or ripped to shreds. I reached for my phone and called 911, and they told me they were already being flooded with calls and an ambulance was on the way.

It set off so many thoughts. As I saw the car lose control, I thought, there is a person who was going home from work who in a fraction of a second would be dead. Being the type of person I am, I instantly (and involuntarily) constructed a scenario around it — the calls to the victims’ family, the ripples that emanate from anything this horrific, the changed lives and altered states of consciousness. I wondered what happened, why they were driving so fast and how they lost control. And I thought about the idiots on the highway who, every day, fight to get one car ahead and tailgate and think if they can pass this one car then their life will be complete. And I drove very slowly, very carefully all the rest of the way home, thinking how death could be waiting at every turn, at every lane change, anywhere at all. And a life is snuffed out forever because someone wanted to go a little faster or change lanes illegally.

Sorry to sound polemical, but this was so close to me I could nearly touch it. I never knew a car could shatter like that, and I never thought I’d see death so close up.

Update: Not really related, but illutrative of the jerks who live in my city and what they do on our highways:

Three 18-year-olds thought it would be funny to drag a cat from a rope while speeding down Arizona 51 early Saturday morning, authorities said.

They thought it would be a prank like the ones acted out on the MTV show Jackass, and they wanted to see other drivers’ reactions. One of them figured if they got caught they would just get a ticket for littering.

But they got the wrong audience: an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer.

The officer booked Phoenix residents Jason Cavalera, the driver, Randall Olney, and Rhys Saxton Saturday morning into the Madison Street Jail on a suspicion of animal cruelty charge, a Class 6 felony.

I try to get into the minds of someone who would do this, but I absolutely cannot. The kitten’s owner, a six-year-old girl, ws shown on the news a couple nights ago sobbing over the torture and murder of her pet. Fucktards.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

Talk about it with people, helps to get it out of your system — that kind of stress doesn’t do you any good ๐Ÿ™

May 19, 2005 @ 7:58 pm | Comment

Maybe I shouldn’t have blogged about it — so personal. Then again, maybe this was my way of “talking about it.”

Every few seconds I see that car flying toward the guard rail like a little toy car….

May 19, 2005 @ 8:26 pm | Comment


Sometimes it’s more horrifying to witness an accident than to be in one.

Perhaps a stiff drink is in order, along with an inventory of all the good things in your life…?


May 19, 2005 @ 8:59 pm | Comment

I’ve been living in Beijing for about 2 years. In that time, I’ve see about a dozen horrific traffic events. Most of them involving bicycles and speeding cars. I’ll never forget these events. Like you, often the images pop into my mind. I hope that the city government realizes there is a problem and does something positive to change the problem.
I agree that talking about it helps…

May 19, 2005 @ 9:02 pm | Comment

Richard, I am sure this was very hard to watch. But I want to thank you for your ability to make your readers feel as though they are right there with you. This post was hard to read, but it was very moving too.

May 19, 2005 @ 9:02 pm | Comment

Kevin, when I was in Beijing I saw so many near misses and several coillisions, but I never saw a fatality. (There’s always so much traffic, cars can’t usually go fast enough to kill anybody.)

May 19, 2005 @ 9:05 pm | Comment

I saw a motorcycle fatality on 1-465 in Indianapolis one year after leaving the Indy 500 race. I’ve seen a lot of traffic fatalities, but this one involved a little girl that happened to be riding on the back of the motorcycle.

Thankfully her little corpse was was covered when I drove past, but what was left of the driver was smeared along 75 yards of the concrete barrier that divided the East and West lanes.

Not a pleasant thing to see.

May 19, 2005 @ 10:13 pm | Comment


When it horrifies and it causes you to doubt things that you thought you knew, the you know that you are still human.

It is when you see something like that and you don’t feel anything, and you don’t see the image everytime you close your eyes, then you know that you are in trouble.

Blog about it, talk about it, whatever helps.

May 19, 2005 @ 11:36 pm | Comment


Ugh. I’m so sorry. Living in LA, I really understand your train of thought. I won’t go into my personal experiences here, but ugh, I relate. That’s a horrible thing to have playing over and over in your head. Stuff like that always makes me think about how out of balance our modern lifestyle seems at times.

May 20, 2005 @ 12:53 am | Comment

I saw someone get knocked down and killed about 5 years ago. Like you, I saw it all unfold from a few feet away. I remember it really screwed me up for a few weeks. It all fades with time, though.

We’re in agreement about stupid drivers. Overtaking (or undertaking) on a 3 lane motorway on the inside is probably the most dangerous thing I see on a daily basis.

Nice weblog, BTW ๐Ÿ™‚

May 20, 2005 @ 2:17 am | Comment

Yes, that sort of thing touches one very deeply and you definitely won’t be yourself for a few days.

But the human mind is unbelievably resilient and after several days you’ll be affected by it less and less each day and, even though you’ll never compleyely forget about it, you’ll get back to normal and be able to live with it.

It might not seem like that now but trust me on this.

May 20, 2005 @ 4:18 am | Comment

It reminds me of the movie, Final Destination 2.

I saw a man bleed to die after the man got stabbed in a fight when I was 5 or 6 years old, and I can still remember vividly after so many years. The blood was thick like tomato sauce.

May 20, 2005 @ 8:14 am | Comment

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