Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The incident on I-80

DAY FOUR:  Tuesday was quite a day. We went to the Carl Sandburg Birthplace and Museum in Galesburg, IL which was very interesting; then we went to the Wilton Candy Kitchen in Wilton, IA, a Road Food restaurant, and "the oldest continually operating soda fountain in the world," - and it was indeed a delightful step into the past, albeit with a touch of sadness; then we went to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, IA, which was very interesting, but then when we left there and went on to I-80, an incident occcured wbich overshadowed the rest of the day.

We had been on I-80 only a few minutes, and were going along in the right lane at about 60 mph - Ellen was driving, of course - when we were suddenly bumped from behind and propelled forward. To our astonishment, a huge semi was right at our rear bumper, and he had in fact hit our bumper and pushed us forward - the push was strong enough that it caused a very slight whiplash and we thought there was the sound of some kind of breakage. Ellen accelerated to put some space between us and him, and then signaled to pull over into the breakdown lane, which we did. We thought the truck would pull over too, but he whizzed on by. I was outraged - a hit and run driver! I noted a number on the back of the truck as it went by, we pulled back into traffic to follow him, and I called 911 to report what had happened. The 911 operator contacted the state police, we gave regular reports as to our whereabouts, (using milemarkers and Exit #s), we described the semi (he was pretty noticeable because he was carrying two huge spools of wire wrapped in white plastic on a trailer), the semi exited off I-80 onto I-380 at Cedar Rapids, we followed, we were transferred on the phone to the State Police, and pretty soon, we saw that he had been pulled over by a trooper and we were instructed to exit at Exit #4 and wait at a Casey's Store there for the trooper to contact us.

When we stopped at Casey's and got out to inspect the damage, we were surprised to find very little damage at all! There were just a few scrapes on the rear bumper - but enough to make it clear that we had been hit! No dents, no glass breakage, just scrapes and abrasions. Here they are:

Five scrapes on our rear bumper

So we were lucky. BUT, this had been a stressful experience. Adrenalin was flowing. My heart was pounding. It was the first time in my life i had called 911. We had never been involved in a kind of chase like that as we tried to keep the truck in view while I talked to the 911 operator. I also felt that the truck driver needed to be called to account in some way. The damage could have been much worse, and just a few inches difference - if he had hit our left rear wheel instead of the bumper -  he could have thrown us out of control and killed us. After all, we were both going 60mph or so! And he had fled the scene!

So we waited and eventually we were instructed to meet the trooper at the entrance ramp of Exit 4. So he came, inspected our damage, took photos, went back and looked at the truck bumper, took photos, and came back and confirmed that, indeed, there were marks on the truck bumper that matched the marks on our bumper. Meanwhile the truck driver had come over to talk to us. He said that he did not know that he had hit us. He did not even see us. His first sight of us was when we pulled away. When we pulled over into the breakdown lane, he thought maybe we had a flat tire. I think he was lying through his teeth.

We gave all our papers to the trooper - Ellen's Driver's license, our registration and insurance, and then the truck driver went into the trooper's car and they talked for  maybe 30-45 minutes while we hung out. I took photos of my bumper and his truck. Here is the truck:

ATS truck

Mark on truck bumper matching marks on ours

So we waited. Finally the trooper appeared, gave us back our papers and gave us an accident report. He assessed the damage at under $1500, which is probably true. I learned later that under Iowa law, you don't even have to report an accident if the damage is under $1500!  We will have to report everything to our insurance company and eventually we'll get a paint job if we want to. I asked if the truck driver received a citation. Answer - "No."  I was incredulous. But the trooper said that while he didn't 100% believe the trucker driver's story, he couldn't prove in court that it was false. He assumed that we would probably not want to come out from Vermont and appear in court to testify, but even if we did, we could not testify to the state of mind of the truck driver. He changed lanes, he didn't see us, he bumped us, damage was minimal, he didn't know he was leaving the scene of an accident because as far as he was concerned, there had been no accident. End of story.Now I am convinced that if I had changed lanes, bumped a car ahead of me, that guy had pulled over, and I had whizzed by, he had gotten my plate #, had called 911, I had been pulled over by a trooper, etc. -- I'm sure as certain I would have been given a ticket. Driving to endanger, following too close, leaving the scene - you name it!  So I guess when you are high up in a big cab, you are literally above the law.

So, we went our way. We had been delayed for over two hours. We were stressed and behind schedule. A few miles down the road, in Marengo IA,  we noticed our oil light was on!  What?? We stopped and checked - sure enough, no oil on the dipstick! Had that been caused by the bump? Seemed unlikely. Then we noticed that we were indeed 1500  miles past the mileage where we were due an oil change. OMG! How could we have overlooked that! We were at a Casey's but they did not sell synthetic oil. The Subaru requires synthetic oil. We are on a "free oil for life" program at Brattleboro Subaru. So much for that!! It was almost 6:00pm. Where could we find a place that sold synthetic oil at that hour? We asked. "Try Whitey's up the road .. go past the Catholic Church, turn right on Main, you'll see it on the left." We found Whitey's. He did have one quart of Mobil 1, so dusty he had to wipe it off. It cost $11.00! It brought the level up to the top. We were down 1 quart. What's with this Subaru using so much oil?  A guy at the pump said that there was foul weather ahead, to the west, where we were headed. 80-mile-a-hour winds, huge hail, heavy rain, tornadoes. We checked the weather on the iPhone. Worse south of us, near Omaha. We went north to Waterloo and headed west on U.S. 20, hoping to avoid the worst of it. Poor Ellen had to drive through heavy rain. The cell phone became erratic. Bad coverage.  I had one heck of a time making a motel reservation in Sioux City, and then couldn't get directions to it. Frustration. We listened to our Teaching Company tapes on Why Does Evil Exist? Seemed appropriate somehow. Well, that's a bit over-dramatic. But isn't there an inherent systemic evil in a system that allows a truck driver to hit you from behind at  60mph, leave the scene, and get off scot-free?  Should I at least write a letter to the trucking compny, informing them? What would YOU do in this situation?

Along the way, Paul called - he  had seen the bad weather on TV and was worried. He said not to worry about getting to Alpine by Thursday if weather would make that difficult. I've checked the weather in Nebraska today (Wed) and it looks ok - just wet. The severe stuff is now well east of us - over near Betsey!!  Hope they are ok!

We got to Super 8 in Sioux City at about 11:00pm. A long day and we were beat. 

I'll tell you about Sandburg, Hoover and the Soda Fountain another time.

No comments:

Post a Comment