The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Columns

January 27, 2013

Scott Underwood: Close call along I-69 eye-opener

I might owe my life to Jon Willis. I probably owe at least my legs to him.

Before I left work Thursday night, the Indiana Department of Transportation emailed an alert about the possibility of hazardous road conditions the next morning. I posted it at www.theheraldbulletin.com and made a mental note to drive carefully Friday morning.

Before I left home about 8:20 a.m. for Anderson, my wife texted that she’d nearly slid into an intersection on her way to work. So I’d had ample warning about the roads before I embarked, and I was focused on driving cautiously.

As I drove southwest on Interstate 69, approaching the Scatterfield Road overpass at Exit 222, traffic ahead of me suddenly slowed to a stop. I had been driving about the speed of traffic, perhaps 50 mph, and had a cushion of at least 50 yards between my car and those ahead of me.

But when I braked, the car slid and seemed to accelerate rather than slowing. I let off the brakes and depressed them again and again, but my momentum kept carrying me forward, sliding on the icy, snow-covered pavement.

I veered right to get onto the shoulder, where I had another 20 yards of space before I would hit the back of a parked pickup truck. My airbag deployed as the front of my car crumpled. After the initial shock, I was relieved to find I was uninjured.

Traffic in the lanes beside me was stopped, so I exited and walked to the front of my car to talk to the driver of the pickup. He introduced himself as Jon Willis from Huntington and assured me that he and a man who was a passenger in his pickup were fine.

My car and Jon’s pickup sat on the shoulder about 6 feet apart. We stood between the two, surveying the damage and exchanging information.

Suddenly Jon shouted, “Watch out!”

I glanced quickly over my shoulder to see that a car was about to slide into the back of my car.

As Jon grabbed my shoulders, I pushed off with my hand on the hood of my car and leaped forward, just before the sliding car slammed into the back of mine, pushing it hard into the back bumper of Jon’s pickup again.

With Jon’s help, I escaped just in the nick of time. Otherwise, my legs would have been crushed between the bumper of Jon’s pickup and the mangled front of my car.

Perhaps miraculously, nobody involved in that Friday morning chain of collisions was injured. I am particularly blessed, having escaped unscathed despite being foolish enough to stand on the shoulder of the highway between two vehicles near such thick traffic and in such hazardous conditions.

I relate this story to you as a cautionary note that, no matter how safely we think we’re driving on snowy, icy roads, we should probably be even more careful. I thought I was being more than cautious enough Friday morning. I was wrong. And I’ll be eternally thankful that no one paid the ultimate price.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column appears Mondays. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 640-4845.

 

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