A close shave
Actually, I'm referring to almost getting into an auto accident last night. Among those who know me well, I'm infamous as a magnet for bad and unattentive drivers. I was very fortunate last night. After taking the train home, I drove out to Connecticut to do a little shopping at the Danbury Fair Mall. There was heavy traffic at the mall exit, and we came to a sudden stop. I had to brake hard like the car in front of me but was in no danger of hitting him. At that moment, I had the split-second thought, "Hope the guy behind me brakes in time." He was following too closely and would have certainly rammed me, had he not been lucky enough to turn a bit onto the shoulder and avoid a collision.
It reminded me of the night of December 30, 2003. I remember the precise date because I later thought, "Sheesh, it's only the day before New Year's Eve, has he started to drink already?" I had stopped at a red light on Newtown Road in the Danbury-Bethel area, right before the left-leaning curve to get onto I-84 westbound. Suddenly my car was hit from behind, with enough force that my seatbelt cut hard into my chest as I was thrown forward.
I turned off my engine and got out to inspect the damage and confront the other driver. It was dark, and with just the street lamps I couldn't really see any damage to my car. I didn't notice if his headlights were working, but I did see a bit of damage to the front end of his very old Ford Escort. A jet of steam was exiting from under his hood.
The scraggly looking, 40-ish man suggested we get our cars off the road. I reluctantly agreed. I had wanted any responding police to see exactly where our cars were, but we were blocking traffic (though it was past 8 p.m. and minimal). After pulling onto the intersecting road, the other guy was nowhere to be found -- he had simply driven off! So I drove to the nearby Mobil station, where I could report the hit-and-run to the police and inspect the damage to my car.
However, there was none. Not even a single scratch, let alone a paint mark from the other car. Maybe he didn't hit me as hard as I thought, and maybe his car's damage was pre-existing, but I'm still surprised my rear bumper didn't have any paint damage. I reported the incident to the police anyway, just to get it on record, knowing there wasn't anything they could do about the other driver. Since then, and thankfully I haven't needed to use this, I've resolved to write down the other person's license plate right away, to prevent this from happening to me again. Most likely he fled because he didn't have insurance, but you never know if someone's intoxicated or a fugitive.
There was no harm done to me, so it didn't matter that he sped away, right? Yes, but I didn't know that for certain at the time. He might have caused damage I didn't see, or given me a case of whiplash. I got my driver's license at 16, and one of the most valuable pieces of advice I had read a few years before in Reader's Digest. Even if there's no apparent damage, or minimal damage, don't accept several $100 bills from the other driver. It's good policy to report it, because you might not realize the full extent of the damage or medical costs.
That being said, I think laws compelling people to report accidents are morally wrong. However, when one of the parties voluntarily requests it, law enforcement examining an accident scene and making records is a proper function of good, limited government.