Getting back on the horse (in the car) after an accident

It’s been a manic week, that much can be said. Earlier this week, I was driving along the motorway and a lorry crashed into my car. We were both going at a considerable speed and once I was hit, I was dragged along the lane for a bit, before being able to stabilise my car and pulling up along the hard shoulder.

I can’t go into much more detail as the jury (insurance) is still out on deciding a few of the details, but to say I was in shock would be a little of an understatement. I was pretty hysterical; this was my first car, my first year of ‘proper’ driving and, given the circumstances, we were lucky that, apart from whiplash and a completely trashed car, no one was seriously hurt. The other driver remained at the scene to exchange details and my insurers have been brilliant and sorted things out very quickly for me. So far, so good.

However, to get to work I need to continue motorway driving. There are other routes, but the time it would take to drive the alternative way makes it unrealistic for a daily commute. So I needed to carry on. Thankfully, a friend found just the right words to keep me going; he essentially said that the best thing to do is to get straight back on the road as the longer you leave it, the more your anxiety builds up.

So, having sorted out a temporary car, I drove into work the next day. The first day of commuting was hell. The car is a different make to the one I’m used to, much younger, more sensitive and with far more buttons than I consider necessary. Add to that my emotional bruises, lack of confidence and flashbacks every time a lorry was in sight (which, on the motorway, is all the time) and you get an impression of my anxiety in overdrive. I had no one there in the car, no one to hold my hand and tell me I was doing the right thing – all of that just happened at a time I was not actually in the car.

But even though nerves had me make mistakes (for which I beat myself up a lot after I got home), I managed to survive my first day. And then another. And every time I got in the car – finally finding all the buttons I needed – it got a little easier. I am still not comfortable driving. I want to get out of the car and scream at every single one of the bastards who tailgate me for driving at the bloody speed limit, where, before, I may just have laughed at them for being so impatient. I wonder whether the lorry driver feels the same; it must have shaken them up a little, too.

I am now off to sort out a new car. It’s a shame; I liked the little, old thing – we became friends fairly quickly. I hope that my new car will feel similar. But the accident has helped me think back to all my driving lessons, all the conversations we had about defensive driving. And while I may be a little over-cautious at times now, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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