Accidents continue to happen close to home

It’s universally known that most accidents happen close to home. Whenever there’s talk about an accident, someone always smugly pipes up with that truism, “Well, you know, most accidents happen close to home.” And we all nod and murmur in agreement, as if it’s a foregone conclusion.

But is that belief based on actual data or folk wisdom? Old wives’ tale or factual accuracy? Ever stopped to wonder? I have, so I checked. According to the insurer Progressive, at progressive.com, 52% of vehicular crashes occur within five miles of home and a whopping 77% occur 15 miles or less from home.

Hmm. I thought about trying to validate the survey data based on my personal experiences of being involved in auto accidents, but I’ve so many that it’s too much work. Plus, how do you sift out the times my cars have been damaged in parking lots and places like at the car dealership? That skews results.

My first accident was at age 19. I was exactly one mile from home and not paying attention to the road because I was looking into the rearview mirror, straightening the bow-tie around my neck (In the pre-cell phone/texting era, you had to create low-tech driving distractions). Glancing back at the road, I saw a box turtle right in front of me. Oh, no!! In last-second motion, I tried to simultaneously bring down my hands and swerve. Unfortunately, I over-steered into a curve sign.

A year later, a chipmunk ran in front of the car I was driving, some 10 miles from home. While I didn’t react, the animal-loving passenger in my car did. She grabbed the steering wheel and put us into a ditch. Seeing as how I was not the one who ditched us, that shouldn’t count toward my cumulative accident score.

Anecdotally, I’d say most of my accidents have happened relatively close to home. Including when I got caught in the middle of a multiple-car pile-up about five miles away, on Oakland Drive in Portage during rush hour. As someone in the middle of that pile-up, I shouldn’t be held responsible for the accident. Plus, I was pregnant and trying to drive safer than usual.

I am not especially clumsy or accident-prone, but what else explains my taking my  anonymously-damaged (in a parking lot) leased pick-up into the shop and having it get backed into a pole and dented while it’s there? Or the icy day when my parked car got hit twice by two different vehicles? This kind of stuff doesn’t happen to other people, at least not that I’ve heard.

Just where did this unlucky stuff come from and how am I attracting it? I have no idea. But for simplicity, I’ll refer to it as my Bad Car Karma, or the Curse of Smith Curve.

I did a lot of bad stuff growing up. My mother used to both curse at and put curses on me: that when I became an adult, I would suffer similarly. That’s definitely come to pass. I also grew up on Smith’s Curve, the relatively sharp third curve on Eight Mile Road, straight north out of Union City; the curve synonymous with death and destruction. Cars constantly overshot the curve and met our trees and fences head-on, their drivers seriously maimed. I became accustomed to accident aftermath.

So it felt like business as usual at 3 AM the other morning when a car smacked into the “T” intersection road sign on the south edge of my front yard and impaled itself on the sign’s metal poles. My daughter and I heard the commotion and went outside to see who was hurt. Finding the car empty, we made unsuccessful flash-lighted rounds in the immediate vicinity searching for victims.

We retreated to bed, only to be re-awakened at 4 AM, when the mysterious driver came back to try liberating the vehicle. Enough! I assisted by calling 9-1-1. A State Police Trooper showed up within 15 minutes, the car was towed within the hour and the Calhoun County Road Commission replaced the sign within a day.

Now that’s service! I went to sleep feeling back in my realm at the helm of the Accidents Happen Close to Home Kingdom.

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