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What's Your 'I Can't Believe I Didn't Crash' Story?

Photo: NHTSA
Photo: NHTSA

I’m a teetotaler so I can’t drive drunk. I don’t text while driving. I always wear my seatbelt. I’ve done teen driving and performance driving school. I drive 95 percent of my miles in brand new cars with tons of airbags. There’s every reason to think that I’d be safe from serious injury in a car. But I almost blew all of that by driving drowsy.

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I knew I was too tired to be driving. It was 5 a.m., it was a 40-minute drive, and I knew it was a bad idea. But I needed to be home in the morning and I was a dumb high schooler. So I drove drowsy anyway.

That was a terrible idea. Driving drowsy isn’t just a danger to you, but to other motorists. It’s just as dangerous as drunk driving and accounts for one in 10 car accidents. It’s reckless and irresponsible. And since adrenaline usually kicks in if you get pulled over, drowsy driving is almost impossible to spot or crack down on.

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Now, I knew it was a bad idea. Instead of not driving like a non-idiot, though, I decided to spend the drive with the windows down, A/C blasting in my face and the music cranked to provide constant stimulation. Over 35 minutes on the highway, it worked.

I got off the highway less than a mile from my house. I had been scared and worried the whole drive, made purposely uncomfortable by my self-inflicted stimulation. But I made it, I could relax. I rolled up the windows, turned down the music and...

THUMP. 3 seconds of road had disappeared in front of me and I had run up on a curb. I was able to quickly yank the wheel back toward the road before damaging any property or shrubbery, but that was dumb luck more than skill. I had fallen asleep. I could have killed someone and was lucky enough to escape without injury or damage.

That was six years ago. I haven’t driven drowsy since. Whether I have to use caffeine or comedy albums or good old fashioned roadside naps to keep me alert, I’m much more careful now. It was a stupid decision in the first place.

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But I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s escaped a wreck through luck alone. Whether it was your fault or someone else’s, tell us about when you narrowly avoided a crash.

Mack Hogan is Jalopnik's Weekend Editor, but you may know him from his role as CNBC's car critic or his brave (and maligned) takes on Twitter. Most people agree that you shouldn't listen to him.

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DISCUSSION

the1969dodgechargerguy
the 1969 Dodge Charger Guy

Got my license as 16, the oldest kid, so I got the driving duties. That included me behind the wheel from Iowa to Arkansas with the old man scouting cities to relocate to. (He had had it with Iowa winters.) It was a Chrysler Newport boat—5000 pounds steel that floated along on its mush suspension. Mom was way over at the other end of the 20-foot front bench seat while Dad sat in the back smack in the middle straddling the driveshaft hump as he did paperwork He used his wood briefcase as a desk—the original laptop.

We were in Missouri and I had been behind the wheel for 100 miles. I wasn’t used to long stretch driving and I was fatigued. We were bopping south on a US highway, probably doing 75-80 on 70MPH roads when I saw up ahead a road intersecting with the highway. A car was approaching the intersection from the right.

‘He has to stop. I have the right of way,’ I thought.

Kept approaching, he was too. I look at him again and there’s no indication of brakes applied by him. A second later and I realize there is no way he can apply brakes in the space that was left. He sailed full speed towards the highway. I was about to T-bone him with a helluva fiery full speed crash.

I slammed on the power brakes. The wheels locked as the Newport’s nose dove so low, I would’ve sworn I was plowing the asphalt. The tires howled so loud, I thought they’d blow from the panic-stop skidding. (At least the Newport stayed straight.)  I hear my dad’s briefcase slide off his lap. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Mom “brace” her arm against the dash. (None of us had on seat belts.)

I got down to 50MPH or so. Instead of slamming broadside into the idiot’s car, I was now going to hit his rear wheel. Shockingly, I had the presence of mind and took my foot off the brake as I heaved the bloated Chrysler to the right, then cranked it back to the left as I shot around him. Yes, I “shot” around him with that wallowing boat of a Chrysler. No one in the car said anything.

Driving on another mile, my hands started shaking and they wouldn’t stop—I realized just how close I came to dying. I found a spot where I could safely park and the old man got behind the wheel. Such a trip.