Pay attention

Published 11:41 pm Friday, September 2, 2011

Judging from the mangled steel and the debris that littered the intersection, an accident involving five vehicles at the intersection of Holland Road and the U.S. Route 58 Bypass on Monday looked as if it were going to be a tragic one.

A small pickup truck lay on its side, with damage on every exposed surface. The things that had been stowed in its bed prior to the crash were scattered all over the intersection. The back portion of a passenger car was flattened beneath the engine compartment of a tractor trailer. The car’s trunk was smashed into the backseat, and its driver-side door had been wrenched open by rescue personnel. Two other cars nearby had received light damage.

As it turned out, there were no serious injuries, a fact that can only be considered miraculous in light of the violence of the wreck. Judging from the scene, things could easily have been much worse, even tragic.

Email newsletter signup

And it all took place in a few seconds of screeching tires, grinding metal and shattering glass. One moment, people were stopped at a light, waiting for it to turn green, and the next moment everything was turned upside down. One moment, thoughts were on job crises, dinner plans and memories of the weekend and the next moment minds were trying to work out what was happening.

Nobody expects to be in an accident, but they happen nonetheless. And they happen whether we’re ready for them or not. That’s why the law requires, for example, that we wear seatbelts all the time. And that’s why we’re expected to be continually vigilant when we’re driving. Most of the time, minor distractions do not result in injury or death, but sometimes they do, and we can’t know ahead of time when a distraction will be benign or when it will be fatal.

Police say that Monday’s crash was caused by a driver who was distracted by his mobile phone. Few of us can claim the same thing has never happened to us. But we all should heed the graphic lesson imparted by an image of five vehicles twisted into wreckage as a result of a single moment of inattention.