Thursday, January 3, 2008

Driving 101: when to "see"

It’s time for another question of the week. This is a “what would you do” situation. I might not have posted about this issue except that Tamara at Freelance Parent had a personal experience herself and the combination of the two incidents prompted more reflection than I might have otherwise done.

Here’s the dilemma. I am walking out of a public building across its parking lot to my car. Suddenly a big 12 (maybe 16) passenger van whips backwards out of a parking space and, whomp, squarely hits the minivan behind it which causes it to lurch forward on its suspension. Then the van screeches forward back into the slot and stops.

Two other people are walking toward me on their way into the building. They freeze momentarily, possibly uncertain about what the driver’s next move will be, and then proceed while chattering rapidly to each other and shaking their hands at the van (or the driver).

Without the driver getting out of the van to check for damage on the minivan or leaving their (gender deliberately omitted) information, the back-up lights come back on and the van proceeds to pull out even though people are walking behind it. My “this is wrong” barometer kicks in. Even more I was incredulous that the driver would not get out and check for damage at least on their own vehicle let alone someone else’s.

So, I walk up to the driver’s window while my better sense is pointing out that it isn’t my affair. And you know what, it wasn’t. However, I had just seen this van hit this minivan hard and the driver was going to skip out like it didn’t happen or at least it was invisible when did.

I really expected to see a newer teenaged driver who had gotten momentarily flustered. Instead the face that appeared in the window when I spoke turned out to be 5 to 10 years older than me. The features were hardened and deeply etched and a burning cigarette was hanging out of the tight-lipped mouth sporting at least half to three-quarters of an inch of ashes. Gulp.

Without recalling the whole 2 minute exchange I will summarize it. The driver told me I didn’t see what I saw and even if I did nothing was damaged so nothing needed to be done. I pointed out that to hit something that hard and then not get out to look at it was leaving the scene. My closing argument was that if the driver just kept leaving I would find the other driver inside (it’s a small building with PA system) and tell them the minivan had been hit by a vehicle with their plates.

While I got paper from my car to make notes the driver did get out and look at both vehicles. Then got back in and slowly crawled out of the space and left the lot. I copied the plate numbers from both vehicles and glanced at the minivan which amazingly had no visible damage. Whether the suspension or the transmission interlock or any other internal systems were damaged is not apparent. I decided not to have the owner paged but I am keeping the information in case something comes up.

So what do you think? Was it unnecessary to confront the driver? Have you been in a similar situation, as the “hitter” or the car “hit?” Did it make a difference in how you interpreted the responsibility of the “hitting” driver? Leave your respectfully offered thoughts in the Comments.

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chelle said...

You are so brave! I am always so weary of situations like that. Although I would not have hesitated to take down the drivers plate # and left it on the windshield of the hit car.

Pieces of Me said...

In Israel I accidentally fender bendered another teacher's car at my school last night. I wrote my name down and number. I paid for the damages.

It is very 'common' to leave the crime scene, Israel and now as I'm seeing, abroad. I am one of the honest few. Many people don't want to get involved. But I'm in shock that he behaved the way he did (not hiding the facts) and wanted to pick up and go in a public lot like that!


Pieces of Me said...

oops, I meant last 'year'!

michele tune said...

Hmmm.... this is a hard one! I don't know what I would have done. I think the moral thing is what you did. I mean, if we'd been in the store, wouldn't we hope someone would take the license # down for us? They probably wouldn't but we have to have some hope, don't we?

I do commend you for doing what you felt to be right. That's what matters, isn't it? And like you said, you have the information--in case...

I hope you're at peace.


Anonymous said...

I think you handled it perfectly. I would have done the same thing, except I would have skipped the whole part about knocking on the driver's window and conversing with them. I just would have noted the plates and gone about my business. You did good.

Melissa Donovan
Writing Forward

Rositta said...

The first thing that comes to mind is this... you didn't know who was on the other side of that window and it could have turned out badly for you. Having said that, I would do and have done the same thing. Would I do it again, not in this day and age, but I would take down the information and leave it on the windshield of the other car...ciao:)

G's Cottage said...

Thanks for all the insight and reflection offered.

For the most part there is an agreement about doing something. I think today if this had not been on taxpayer-funded property I should only note and leave it for the owner of the hit car.

This happened at the library where lots of people including children are walking around. My "this is wrong" was fueled in part that it was more than just hitting another car there was a sense of recklessness that the situation could not allow. The driver needed a reminder that it wasn't their driveway at home and they were seen.

I didn't knock on the window the van I just called out "stop a minute."

I think I need to assess where my citizenship ends and natural consequences should prevail.