The time I got hit by a car…

One summer a few years ago, I was biking home from the pool. My roommate and I were throwing a housewarming party that night, and I had gone for a swim before coming home to help set up. About halfway home, I was stopped at an intersection when the light changed to green. I started to pedal across when a driver turned into me.

I felt a bump on my leg and then landed face first into the pavement. My glasses shattered on impact. The next thing I remember, I was sitting on the curb a few feet away while the driver kept saying “I’m so, so sorry.” Someone looked at my face and told me I would probably need stitches. Apparently I was covered with blood.

When I got to the emergency room, I learned that despite all the bleeding, the gash on my forehead was relatively minor. The doctor chatted with me while stitching up my eyebrow, and told me that I was pretty fortunate.

A few hours later, my roommate came and picked me up. I arrived at our housewarming party two hours late with 8 stitches in my eyebrow and wearing a blood-soaked t-shirt. To be honest, I felt more than a little badass.

It wasn’t until a little later that I realized just how lucky I’d been. The driver who hit me was going about 10 or 15 miles an hour, as he was coming from a full stop and making a left turn. That was fast enough to knock me off my bike, but not fast enough to do any real damage.

A few weeks later, I bumped into an acquaintance at a friend’s house who had also just been hit by a car. Like me, he had no health insurance at the time, but unlike me his injuries were much, much worse. He had been in a hit-and-run, and the truck that ran him over had dragged him for a full block. His leg was broken in multiple places, his opposite arm had a few pins in it, and there were all kinds of other injuries he’d sustained. On top of all this, because the driver who hit him never stopped, he was on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospital bills.

After our conversation, I no longer felt quite so badass. More than anything else, I felt scared. Had the driver who hit me been going any faster than he was, I could have been very seriously injured, or killed. Honestly, my experience was the best-case scenario for a cyclist or pedestrian getting hit by a car, and it still really sucked. When I realized this, I pretty much stopped riding my bike, and sold it soon afterwards.

This is why I feel so strongly that any effort to make Austin’s roads safer has to start with the speed cars travel when they’re sharing streets with cyclists and pedestrians. If a driver is going 20 mph, an unexpected collision with a pedestrian might result in injuries. At 40, it’s pretty much guaranteed that someone is going to die, and it will not be the driver. I can only imagine how fast the car that hit my friend had to be going that they could hit a cyclist, drag him for a block, and not even notice that something was off.

Austin has far too many streets where drivers are interacting with pedestrians and cyclists at 40 mph or faster. Austin also has far too many places that are totally inaccessible except by one of those streets. If we want to make this city a safer, more enjoyable place to live, we absolutely have to start with speed, and the road conditions which encourage it.

4 Comments

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4 Responses to The time I got hit by a car…

  1. Alex

    Just stop with the bicycles already. They are a nuisance and a liability.

  2. Hi,
    My name is Adam Hammons, I’m with KEYETV here in Austin. I’m doing a story on pedestrian traffic on Burnet road and I was wondering if you’d like to talk with me today about pedestrian safety.

    Give me a call at 512-779-8108.

    Thank you,

    Adam Hammons
    Reporter
    KEYETV

  3. Pingback: Visionzeroatx shares: The time I got hit by a car… | New Texas Sunrise

  4. Jill

    In a crosswalk, when the SUV throws it into reverse and floors it backwards into you, most of us would not be prepared. Walking out of the Travis County Tax Office, I waited for the SUV to pass, and when I heard grinding gears, as one who grew up racing sportscars, I knew the sound without hesitating to look, and had a second to start to run.

    It was enough to only get run into and flipped in the air into a twist, and I landed hard. Good thing I knew the sound. Had I turned my head, that would have been my second to run. Because they did not stop for another 50 feet when people started beating on the SUV, saying “Hey, you hit that lady!”, I could have been run over instead of run into.

    Two years and four leg surgeries later, and more exercises than you can imagine, I now appreciate that I was born determined.

    Because it was on private property, not a road, the Travis County officer on site who wrote up the accident said no ticket would be issued. The fellow was profusely apologizing and saying how it was all his fault and he should have looked before zooming back to get the parking place he missed. Side note, the parking lot was full; it’s the same one Travis County plans to develop on Airport because there is excess unused parking …. hmmm.

    A day later, his insurance says he said he did not hit me. Really? You’ve got to be kidding! That made me curious about him, so I looked him up on the County criminal records. Aha, pot convictions. Maybe he was stoned? It sure might explain such bizarre driving and the similar reverse in his story.

    One thing I propose is that any time there is a pedestrian accident, both sides be drug tested? Why both sides? Well, of course I would say the driver, yet I realize it’s often the pedestrian at fault too. The reality is the injuries and expense are likely to be severe enough that it will be important to ascertain the truth, and who is under the influence of anything could be relevant. It also might be a further deterrent. It’s also not unlikely that someone was under the influence of something for the accident to occur. If it’s private property, with no ticket, you’ve got almost zero chance of having them pay your medical bills. While I realize there is a privacy issue, the safety issue outranks it, at least in my opinion. Similarly, I would support drug testing for license renewals and car registration too, though I realize that may not be supported by those who have not been hit. Never gave it a thought until this happened.

    Just for the record, I was not on my headphones, cell phone, reading anything, was in good health, etc. That plus the car racing background likely saved my life, since I had the split second to move and just get clipped, and for that I’m grateful.

    How many of us are expecting the car who just passed us to floor it backwards into a crosswalk, likely with someone high at the wheel at lunchtime? While I wasn’t expecting it, ironically I was as ready as you ever could be. Because it was private property, this is not included in the pedestrian accident stats that only follow accidents on publicly dedicated roadways. As private roads or parking lots are a normal place for a pedestrian to be, likely the stats are significantly higher from the injured pedestrian view. This is shared not to be about me, but to help someone else to avoid this experience. I’m glad to see that it’s an issue that people care about , no matter what their views and solutions. May Austin find creative solutions to this as the leading edge city we are in so many ways.

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