Heading home from work last Thursday, traffic was actually cruising along through downtown Sacramento. That is until I rounded the corner on Southbound I-5 about a quarter of a mile from my Hwy 50 exit destination. Brake lights. I went from 65 MPH to 0 pretty quickly. Wary of the car behind me and how quickly we were needing to stop, I tried my best to pump my brakes a few times like my dad taught me before I had to come to a complete stop. When I’d come to a safe, complete stop, I monitored the progress behind. I could tell the quick stop was catching the driver behind me more off guard, but she was able to stop without hitting me from behind.
At that point I was able to start accelerating again. As I did I heard screeching tires and car hitting car. I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a white car flying through the air above the cars behind me. I was in front of all this so I continued to accelerate, just wanted to be clear of the accident area. I didn’t make it very far before I saw in my driver’s side rear-view mirror the white car swinging into my back, driver’s side tire area. I quickly proceeded to the side of the highway as I was now involved in the accident I had seen unfold behind me.
From what I could gather, the car behind me was able to prevent themselves from hitting me, but not from the car behind them hitting them. The white car never had a chance in stopping, and was the one I heard tires screeching from and car hitting car (hitting the car behind the car behind me) before flying through the air. From other eye witness account the white car went into a spin, and I was the one who stopped it. The white car was totaled as was another car that ended up hitting the back of a semi. I think she’s veered out of the lane next to me to avoid the white car and then overcorrected into the semi to avoid the traffic in the faster lanes. Not really sure, as I didn’t ever see that car until it was crunched two lanes over from me. That lady walked away from the car, but was quite dazed and in shock. She’d be taken away in a neck brace and on a stretcher, complaining on a bump on the head by the ambulance that was thankfully not far behind us in traffic. They were also the ones who alerted the Highway Patrol to the accident.
Thinking back on it, it was amazing that these were the only accidents, given how many cars were stopped and looking out onto the wreckage. The accident did close down all five lanes of southbound I-5 for a few minutes and kept three closed for a good hour. Eventually people started using the left shoulder to drive around the debris and crews were able to get the second lane from the right cleared of debris enough so people could safely drive through the scene of the accident slowly, as they were mainly trying to merge onto the highway from the J street on ramp.
I walked away without even the slightest hint of pain or whip lash. I probably wasn’t going more than 10-15 MPH when I was hit and I think the white car had spun long enough not to really move the car over more than an inch. It could have been worse. I could have been sent into a spin. The guy inside the car that hit me walked away from the accident with a bit lip, although I’m sure he would experience whip lash later that day or the next. I know he was complaining of a headache when the officers released me from the scene.
I happened to be driving the Malibu that day - days I savior as Cameron is the main driver given he’s driving all over the valley for work most days. The Malibu has XM radio and I enjoy listening to Martha Stewart radio programming when I’m driving it. From what I could see, the rim on the tire had some deep gauges, as did the tire, a 4 x 2 inch rectangle of the outer frame of the car was missing behind the tire, and the wheel well had a dent, besides the expected scratches. I was able to drive myself home, albeit white knuckled and nerves shot to hell. This was my first real accident. The only other one I’ve ever been in was three weeks after we bought the Malibu and a woman drifted into my lane and hit the front passenger side area. At that time I was mainly just upset that my brand new car was already dented! This time I was just thankful I hadn’t been involved in the accident any more than I was and that everyone walked away. Pretty amazing given the state of the two cars that were totaled and what I saw. It could have been a lot worse.
I didn’t get home until close to 6:30 that night – I leave work at 4:15 most days and am home by 5 PM, barring any traffic clogs. I was supposed to go running with Lynde that night but by the time I made it home I was spent. All I wanted was my husband and little girl and a glass of wine, although it would have also been nice to have my Tulley there to cuddle with too. I’d end up spending more of my evening calling our insurance company to file a claim.
At home, we did see that the back driver’s side tire was bowed out at the bottom some. In talking with the insurance company they instructed me not to drive the car again for fear the wheel might come off. Cameron rearranged his schedule Friday so he could handle getting the car towed to the body shop and to pick up the rental car. All I had to do Friday was wait for the insurance adjuster to call and record my statement.
We have learned that most of the damage to the Malibu was cosmetic, minus the need for a new tire and rim. The damage is under $3000. We had feared that the back suspension may have buckled and given the Malibu’s age and number of miles on it, could have been totaled out depending on how severe the damage we couldn’t see was. The body shop said the car is made well to avoid such problems and that’s why we’re lucky. The bonus - today we got a call that the Malibu is ready to be picked up.
Here is a link to KCRA 3’s web site which shows still aerial photos of the accident from their Traffic Cams. In the last one you can make out the Malibu and see me standing, with my back to the camera in a light colored top watching the lady being loaded onto the stretcher.