Monday, April 19, 2010

Scenario: Interstate Drunk Driver

You are driving along the Interstate on your way to work in the morning and a drink driver loses control of his car and jumps the median into your lane.
What do you do?

This actually happened to my family, 10 years ago. My pregnant wife and I were going to do some church volunteer work on a Saturday morning when a drunk driver lost control of his car and crossed the median.

Something they don't tell you in Driver's Ed is that at 70 mph slamming on the brakes and turning the wheel does nothing for a long time, except for making lots of noise as you go skidding down the street. Sure they may tell you to have an escape route planned, like going into the ditch on one side or the other, that seems to assume they are coming straight toward you and not crosswise like he did.

The State Patrol was actually surprised that I got on the brakes at all because usually in these kinds of crashes it happens too quickly for people to react. It was estimated that it was about 0.8 seconds from the time the drunk driver crossed the median to the time of impact.

Which is interesting, human reaction time is about 0.25 seconds. That should give you time to make about 3 decisions. The real problem is that it take a typical car about 8 seconds to come to a stop from 65 mph. Physics, what are you going to do?

The thing that really saved us were our seatbelts, our old car did not have airbags, and our heavy winter coats. The coats did so much to cushion us that we did not sustain significant internal injuries so much so that the trauma team treating me scanned me three different ways and got extra more experienced doctors to look to make sure they weren't missing something.

Unfortunately, our unborn daughter suffered injuries due to the impact and died after 9 days.