It’s a sad fact, but DUI accidents are common. As we discussed in a recent post, something like 10,000 lives are lost nationally each year in drunk-driving accidents. We hear about them on the news, we see the aftermath on the highway…every once in a while we pass through a DUI checkpoint, usually around the holidays. But when you think about how many people drive every day and how many miles we collectively log, you realize why most of us haven’t seen a DUI crash up close – in a big-picture sense of miles driven per person, they’re rare.
Also, when you crunch the numbers you realize that more than three-fifths of the alcohol-related fatal crashes occur between 9pm and 6am:  hours when most of us are at home, if not asleep. No wonder seeing a drunk-driving accident is a rarity. (And thank goodness, by the way!)
But recently, a friend witnessed a DUI crash just after it happened. Fortunately the injuries were non-fatal, and the friend agreed to share a second-hand account:
It was about 10am on a Saturday, and I was driving across town for a morning hike. I was on a major street, and I saw the stoplight at an upcoming intersection was red. I try to maximize my MPGs, so I shifted into neutral (I have a stick-shift) and cruised toward a stop. There weren’t many people on the road, but there were two cars in my lane that had stopped. As I got to about 100 yards from the intersection, I saw the driver’s side door of the front car open. The little red sedan had its hazards on, and I figured there was engine trouble. I changed lanes so I could take the light when it changed – I would didn’t have jumper cables or any car know-how to offer.
The driver walked slowly toward the back of the car, and I noticed a bunch of debris on the ground. The driver, a middle-aged woman, was walking funny and crying. I rolled down the window and asked if she was OK, and she motioned to the car behind her. “He’s drunk,” she said. “He just hit me, and he’s drunk.” I looked over and saw a man slumped back in the driver’s seat, staring blankly into the distance. He wasn’t responding, wasn’t denying what she was saying. He was just sitting there.
By this point, other cars had filled in behind us. I couldn’t go backward without hitting anyone, and I wasn’t about to clog up another lane. When the light changed, I drove forward, pulled off to the right, and crossed the street on foot back to the scene. Several drivers leaned on their horns at the disabled car (as they often do – people seem to notice they aren’t moving ten times faster than they think about WHY that might be), but one guy in a big, sturdy pickup had figured out what was going on. He pivoted his big truck like a protective barrier behind the two little cars that had collided.
I checked in with the woman. She said her neck and back hurt and that she was worried about her dog that was in the backseat. I had already called 911, and by this time I heard the sirens in the distance. The guy in the trunk had a good handle on things and gave me a big “thumbs up,” so I made sure the woman had my phone number and then I headed off. The other driver never got out of his seat.