** Update 03/05/11: I've been getting a lot of readers visiting this article in search of an explanation about why their car accidents happened in slow motion. For the technical post about why your accident happened in slow motion, you can read my other post: Slow motion car accidents and traumatic events It concerns the Amygdala section of your brain which records a denser and richer memory.
Seat belts will save your life. If you ever get into a car, wear your seat belts. Last weekend, my friend and I were involved in a car accident. I could be angry and upset at the guy that hit us but it won't change anything. The only thing that I'm concerned with now is our health. The driver apologised profusely and said that he didn't know what he was thinking about when he was driving...that he had been "day dreaming" and "la di da di da" was going through his mind...
An unexpected car accident is more terrifying than one that is expected
When I've been responsible for the accidents (years ago when I was a new driver), I knew that it was coming because I didn't give way or someone in front of me braked suddenly because of the car in front of them. Or some driver darts out in front of your car last minute, or when someone changes lane without looking or indicating. You know you've been driving poorly or they know that they've been driving poorly.
Since the accident was very unexpected, it scared the sh*t out of me. We were indicating to turn right when suddenly the hardest impact combined with the noise and the car being propelled forward gave me the biggest scare of my life. If you can imagine someone crashing into the rear of your car and the car flying with fast momentum towards a telegraph pole that you just can't avoid and you know that your car will be making an impact within seconds, it's rather terrifying.
Impacting with a telepgrah pole will usually have two results, death or extremely severe injuries. I don't even know exactly when the airbag deployed but fortunately it did or else I'd have been eating the dashboard and taking my last breath on this Earth.
The car accident happened in slow motion
It happened within mere seconds yet it felt like time had slowed and life was playing in slow motion. Research indicates that it's all about our perception of time. Or adrenaline which allows our mind to process events and details faster than usual.
The bang and the impact from our car being rear ended caused me to scream (I'd always wondered if I could scream in fear and it turns out that I'm pretty loud) and the momentum caused us to fly forward. The seat belt did its job and we got whip lashed when we banged back into our seats. The noise was deafening.
Next thing I see is the telegraph pole in our path of collision. I knew we were headed for the pole dead straight. Wierd thing was that my mind was processing the entire thing and so many thoughts ran through my mind in logical successions:
1) We were going to die when we hit the pole
2) Will it hurt and will I feel the pain badly before dying
I could feel the car's metal shaking and being crumpled by the pole as it was happening and the next thought rushing through my mind was, "our legs are going to be crushed by the car and we'll be trapped if we don't die". Not sure when the airbag deployed because I was staring at the pole that we were careening towards. Fortunately I had my arm bent out in front of my chest and that took the impact from the airbag, which exploded out like gunshots. I've been told stories of people with double wrist fractures because they had their arms straight out when the airbags deployed.
The car bounced back like a toy and the next thought rushing through my mind was that we hadn't died but the car was on fire! Which it wasn't of course. It was just the smell of the airbags deploying which was giving off the smoky smell. We were alive. Our legs weren't crushed. Our car was a write off. Destroyed. Crumpled front and back. The mirrors had broken off from the sun visor. The windscreen was spider webbed.
It was still a beautiful, cloudless, sunny day. Hot and unchanged. I was still alive and breathing. Trying to breath, but that's still breathing.
I stumbled out of the car, totally winded with pain radiating across my chest. I knew I was way too young to have a heart attack so it had to be the seat belt whip lash from both, back and front impact. Breathless, trembling and shaking with shock. People were running out onto the road to see if they could help. Cold water bottles were thrust into our face with people saying, "have a drink of water" and then another voice chiming in saying, "she better not drink the water until the ambulance gets here". Another saying, "let's get you into the shade so you can sit on the wall" and voices in the background calling for polices and ambulances.
Not everyone will experience the slow motion effect. My friend on the other hand, was the driver and said that it all happened so fast that there wasn't really much time to do anything except try to step on the brakes that were useless.
It was a close call but we are still alive, thanking our ancestor's spirits and God for that
Raised with two religions (Buddhism and Catholicism), we thanked God and we thanked our ancestor's spirits for looking after us. There's nothing I fear more than being paralysed. I would rather say good bye to life than live life paralysed and unable to do the physical things that I love in life. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and preferences of course. The doctor says that we are lucky. He said that he'd seen car accident injuries where the insurers all try to avoid paying and try to use any loophole that they can to avoid liability.
Sadly most victims of accidents pay medical costs from their own pockets despite the injuries arising due to no fault of theirs, but some other driver's negligence. That's why we pay for private health insurance. And for income protection insurance. If the injuries had been bad, our health insurance would have paid for some of the medical bills and if we couldn't work, the income protection insurance would have kicked in to help pay for the bills if we couldn't work and was forced to take time off.
Do you think people feel the pain of car accidents or fear death while it's happening?
Based on my experience, I don't think there was sufficient time to fear death. I don't think I'd fear death ordinarily anyway. I think that if it had been worse, I would have felt the pain of the car crumpling and trapping the legs and being conscious of it before the adrenaline kicked in and numbed the pain. In the situation of car accidents involving deaths, it may happen in slow motion but once the impact reaches the body, they will feel pain before the head is impacted. Even when I thought we were going to die, it wasn't a crazy emotional thought, it was strangely, almost like an objective, rational thought.
It's so wierd but the scene replays in my mind in slow motion and I can even see the entire event unfolding with clarity in my mind. If I shut my eyes and think about what happened, it's almost like replaying a DVD in slow motion.
Ramifications of the car accident
1) The insurance company will pay out the insured value of the car
2) Have to buy a new car
3) The new car will cost more than the insurance payout so accidents are the pits
4) I feel guilty because we were on that road at that point in time because of the meeting that I planned on attending (which ironically I couldn't attend due to the accident) - I feel that I should help contribute financially to the new car that my friend will have to buy
5) I'll have to sacrifice some or part of my goals and delay them because if my friend accepts the financial assistance then I won't be able to meet my year end targets
6) Our health may be troublesome when we get older. Doctor says that people involved in hard impact car accidents have tendency to suffer from arthritis earlier in life
7) I want to sacrifice the holiday plans to help pay for the new car but I also want to visit my friend in England so if anything, it'll come out of the investment property deposit
8) Tow truck guys told us that it looked like a 60km/hr impact, if he'd been going any faster, we'd have been goneskis. Our car would have been crumpled severely and the momentum into the pole would have finished us off
There are also various car financing options available out there. Some of them can be tax effective, so we're doing some number crunching to see which option is preferable, allows salary sacrificing and can be expensed since the car is used for business/work purposes.
I can't help but feel guilty because we were there on that road at that point in time because of me. Everyone keeps telling me that it's not my fault. That it wasn't something in our control. That it's the fault of the guy that drove into us. I can't even be that angry with him because I was a poor driver in my teenage year. The 55 year old guy that hit us is a high school teacher with three kids. Isn't that ironic.
We are grateful to be relatively uninjured and happy to be alive. It does serve to remind me that I have to live my life as much as I can today and not plan too much for tomorrow because tomorrow may not be there. But just like the accident has demonstrated, tomorrow does and has arrived, and I'm still alive and breathing and I'm still glad that I've planned for tomorrow, regardless of how short my possible 'tomorrows' could be.