I had our long-term BMW 335d over the weekend, and on Saturday decided to take a longish drive out to explore a SoCal air museum. Along the way, I was marveling at the car’s twin-turbo, direct-injection diesel six, its 425 pound-feet of torque making highway passing and hill-climbing simply effortless—even under relatively hard acceleration, the automatic didn’t bother shifting any more once it reached sixth. It’s a magnificent powerplant, that diesel, and definitely the engine I’d choose if buying a regular 3-Series.
Anyway, just short of my destination, I was stopped at a red light, tinkering with the audio system and trying to find that song about the—
Ka-bam! Somebody had either just hit me in the back of the head with a baseball bat, or my driver’s seat had just exploded. For three or four seconds I was confused; the noise and the violence of the blow had temporarily short-circuited my neural system. When my brain rebooted, I looked up in the rear-view mirror. There was a VW Jetta, hood jackknifed upward. I’d been rear-ended. Hard.
In a state of shock and still dazed by the blast—that’s really what it felt like—I began a quick triage routine, first checking that all my bits and pieces were still intact, then observing my face in the mirror to see if I’d hit anything (apparently, I hadn’t). The BMW was still running, so as the Jetta driver eased around me and pulled over, I’ll pulled off the road behind him.
The driver’s door of the VW opened. Out climbed a teenaged kid, barefoot, in T-shirt and shorts, hands in the air. “Man, I didn’t even see you,” he said. “I had my head down.” Probably looking for your shoes, I thought.
The kid had driven right into the back of the BMW doing at least 30 mph. I never heard any tire squeal or other sign that he’d attempted to stop. Just the gentle thrum of the diesel engine one moment, then an explosion of sound and stars in my eyes. The 335d took the impact remarkably well; it was still drivable, and the rear glass was intact. It’ll need a new trunk lid and rear end, and possibly some supporting bits underneath, but it didn’t fold up like a chewing-gum wrapper. The kid’s Jetta, the lighter of the two, didn’t fare so well. The entire front end had stepped backward a few inches, the hood was folded, and the radiator was likely damaged. It still ran, though—at least enough to get the kid the half-mile back to his house.
Neither of us appeared to be hurt, though today, two days after the wreck, my back is sore and my neck is throbbing. (And, no, unless for some unexpected reason I begin experiencing a lot of additional pain, I have no plans to sue.) What I realized, though, was that the instant of the impact must be how it feels to die. You’ve taken a “dangerous” flight in a U.S. Navy Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornet only weeks before, and now you’re “safely” minding your own business at a stoplight, looking for a favorite song on the radio, when with no warning whatsoever there’s a huge bang! and the lights go out. Had it been a side impact, at only slightly higher speed, my lights could’ve gone out forever. As it was, I was damn lucky. Lucky, too, to be securely belted into a sturdy BMW.
Normally, I keep my head on a swivel even at stoplights; I watch the rearview mirror and mentally “stop” the driver behind me. More than once in my driving career, I’ve had to squirt forward at the last moment to avoid being rear-ended. This time my mind was on music and my coming visit with old airplanes. And, as I sat motionless in a cloud of false security and distraction, the odds caught up with me.
When operating moving machines, especially big and fast ones like cars and airplanes, inattentiveness simply isn’t allowable. The kid who hit me failed epically, as many young and/or stupid drivers do. He’s alive to drive again, though, and with luck he won’t be so careless from now on. I count myself fortunate, too. It won’t be so easy to get me to take my head off its swivel again.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6524695/editorial/crash-test-dummy-me/index.html