“They saw my car fly into the air and land,” Kate Hendel ‘24 says as she recounts her experiences from her first car crash. Hendel isn’t alone: 77% of drivers will get into at least one crash in their lifetime, according to a report by Esurance.
Librarian and previous bus driver Tammy Otten was on her usual bus route one winter morning, picking up students who were waiting to go to school, when she found herself in an unusual situation.
“There was a car coming towards me from the other side of the road,” Otten said. “The driver felt hot and happened to have taken off her seatbelt in order to take her coat off, and did not have her seatbelt back on yet. Here she is, driving her vehicle, coming towards the bus. I was completely stopped, had my red lights on. The door was open. She had gone to put on the brakes and started sliding and couldn’t control the vehicle. Her vehicle ended up hitting the left side of the front of the bus. It moved the whole bus because of the impact. Since she didn’t have her seatbelt on, she hit the windshield and you could see where her head hit it. The windshield was cracked and pushed out, but not shattered. She sustained a fair amount of injuries, and since this was before cell phones, the students we were picking up had to run back inside of their house in order to call 911.”
Hendel’s first car was used and had awkward steering that veered more to the right than set in the middle. One day, she found herself running into a ditch after driving around a right curve in the road.
“My car got flung backwards into the ditch and then I nosedived back down,” Hendel said. “I tried to open my driver’s side door and it was locked so I couldn’t get out, but I’m sideways and the airbag is in my face, it’s all smoky in my car, and I can see that the hood of my car was smoking. This was in front of someone’s house and they happened to be outside waiting for the bus to pick up their son, so they saw all of this happen. They saw my car flying into the air and land. So this sweet old man comes over and he’s like ‘Oh my god, are you okay?’ and I’m just crying, because this is my ‘brand new’ car and I’m like, ‘my dad is gonna be so mad at me’. That was the first thing I said. Since it was all foggy that day, the grass was super wet, so when my parents got there, I was just covered in all this mud and dirt. We ended up getting it fixed for around $9,000 dollars after it had been totaled.”
Drivers with less experience are more likely to crash their car. Jace Pobuda ‘24 crashed his car multiple different times within a short period of having his license.
“I had to wait to get my license for a long time,” Pobuda said. “I waited around two years so my first car was a huge thing. After three days of getting my license, first I backed up into a trash can. That sucked. Next I was trying to leave work and I saw these people with fundraising signs on the side of the road. They wanted me to go into the restaurant to get these raffle tickets, but I didn’t have time to do that, so I tried to pull into the parking lot and there was a yellow pole, y’know, those yellow poles at fast food restaurants. I kind of turned too fast and I hit the pole… twice, actually. The passenger door was gone, it was all bent and looked terrible. I cried. I was so sad because it was only a week after I got my car and I didn’t go to work. I called out and I’m like ‘I am too overwhelmed, I can’t do it and my car is gone, it’s done for.’”
Not everyone who gets into their first car crash is at fault. Ryan Mayville ‘24 had a more than interesting experience with his first car crash at an intersection, which involved a peculiar conflict.
“I saw a car coming from my right, so I slammed on the gas to get past , but they still ended up hitting me,” Mayville said. “We exchanged information and he immediately said that he didn’t want to call the cops to have a review written and I thought that was a little weird, so he ended up giving me his phone number and all of his other information. We ended up meeting later with my parents, but before I left, I saw that they had a ton of suitcases in the back that were almost full of cartons of cigarettes and I wasn’t really sure what to think of that. He was super open about it and was like ‘Yeah we smuggle cigarettes and stuff out of Mexico and I don’t really want to go through insurance with it or we will get caught,’ and we said that we didn’t care. I had gone through how much money we would need with my dad before we went, so I knew how much we needed. He said he would pay for our damages and we asked how much he was willing to pay. He immediately said 2000 and pulled out rolls of 100 dollar bills that were probably worth around 6000 dollars. We immediately agreed, since that was way more than what we needed.”
According to Minnesota State Laws, drivers should always have proof of insurance somewhere in their car in case of an emergency. Teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. When you crash, it is safer to stay in your car. Turn off your ignition, turn on your hazard lights, check for any injuries, and call 911.