I've only been involved in three auto accidents in 43 years of driving. Knock on wood. It's a pretty good record. Plus, two of the smashups were not my fault, and no one was hurt in any of the three, except me one time, and that was minor.
The first was back in the sixties, when I was in college. I had a part-time job driving a school van for a half-dozen kids going to a private school outside Boston. Crossing a busy intersection one morning, someone ran a red light and smashed into the van. Everyone was okay, and the van was driveable.
The second was also in the sixties. I was driving my father's Ford Country Squire station wagon loaded with furniture, clothes and books. I backed out of his driveway without being able to see very well behind me. I backed straight across the road into the neighbor's driveway, which I thought was empty. It wasn't. Apparently, in the 30 seconds that elapsed between my checking the neighbor's driveway and my backing the station wagon across the road, this neighbor and soon to be former family friend had backed a gigantic motor home into the driveway in front of his garage. I clobbered the motor home, sending it halfway into the garage, through the closed garage door, pushing the vintage Model T the neighbor was restoring in the garage part way out through the back wall. Naturally, in the aftermath there were suggestions that the motor home was there before I started backing, and I just didn't see it. And, I'm not denying it. How could I?
My dad, thinking that the old neighborhood would never be the same, looked at me with that too familiar, crestfallen look of his and said, as he had on other, similar occasions, "Look what you've done now, son."
The third crash was in the early seventies in Vineyard Haven at the end of the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road. I was driving an old yellow VW Beetle convertible, heading up-Island on State Road, when an elderly woman, really elderly, came rumbling down the hill from Edgartown in her black, 4-door Plymouth battle tank slash sedan, bound for Look Street, with no plans to pause or stop, and damn the consequences. She powered right over the sloping trunk of the VW and continued on to demolish a big chunk of the low stone wall that belonged to the house on the corner. The VW was totaled; the Plymouth lived to fight on. My left knee got banged up, but it recovered.
Now, I know none of this matters one bit to you, and I wouldn't burden you with it except that despite this reasonably sparkly, long-running record of good driving, my motor vehicle operating skills are increasingly taking incoming fire from the loved ones. Some of my critics are not themselves legal operators yet, though they seem to think that when they are street legal they'll be motoring flawlessly, having learned what not to do from the old man. I beg to differ.
For instance, there is considerable noise from the teenager in charge of back seat driving about how I operate the heater. On the way to the seven o'clock boat in the morning, the car is cold. I've explained repeatedly that the heating system depends on the engine reaching operating temperature. She says, Daaaad, turn the heat up. She says, Daaaad, you are the worst driver of all my friends' parents.
Now, I know I'm on very solid ground here. You tell me, what does driving skill have to do with running the car heater, especially when the critic will not absorb the rudimentary mechanics, or physics, or biology, or whatever that governs how car heaters work. Not a blessed thing. It's a bad rap.
Then there's the obloquy directed at me by my life's co-pilot who often rides shotgun (that is, when she doesn't insist on taking command). Her view is that I'm distracted. I look this way and that, rather than concentrating on the road ahead. Well, duh, aren't you supposed to use your peripheral vision? Aren't there potential dangers lurking at the roadside, in the cross streets and driveway openings? Aren't there deer lurking in the underbrush, plotting flanking maneuvers beside every dark road up-Island? Isn't scanning the terrain ahead and to the sides part of what a skilled and conscientious motor vehicle operator ought to be doing? Don't bother answering; I know you see the whole thing exactly as I do.
You cannot satisfy these critics. If you are motoring too slowly, they complain. Too fast, they complain. Too jerky, ditto. Plus, and this is the nub of the problem, I've driven right by our driveway while engaged by one of my critics in a debate about my driving skills, and they say I've just given irrefutable testimony in support of the point they are making. I say, who needs the distraction?