I was driving my mother, daughter and niece on a road I travel daily, just in front of the high school where my son graduated. I’m a mother and a former teacher, and I’m a safety freak. But I know accidents happen to people who are doing nothing wrong every day. I’ve been lucky enough never to have one–ever in thirty years as a licensed driver. It’s almost crazy to be that lucky, even for a safety freak.
I saw the teen up ahead riding his bike (helmet on) along the sidewalk at a good clip. The curb is quite a bit higher than the road and separated by a couple feet of grass, which puts it a pretty secure distance from the well-traveled road. I saw him, but he didn’t worry me up there. Until he took a sudden ninety degree left turn in front of my car into the crosswalk without a look or pause.
He’s a kid, maybe fourteen. There weren’t any cars ahead that he could see. He had headphones on and couldn’t hear me approach. His underdeveloped frontal lobe didn’t allow him to process the possible consequences of his snap judgement to take that immediate exit when he saw the opportunity. We say kids are rash and impulsive. Well, they are. I know mine are.
I missed him. Somehow, by the grace of God, I managed to process what was happening and hit my horn while jerking my wheel so hard I wrenched my shoulder and pulled an abdominal muscle jamming my brake pedal through the floor and laying blackmarks across two lanes. He stopped and immediately backed his bike up to the sidewalk. Somehow, he didn’t even fall.
How lucky were we all that there weren’t any other cars coming to hit that child or my family? I pulled back into my lane. There wasn’t a place to stop and he hadn’t fallen. Everyone in the car watched as he put his face in his hands after mouthing behind us, “Im sorry, I’m so sorry.”
I didn’t think to go back at that moment as we were all tearing up and beginning to shake. I now want to find him and make certain he’s really okay–not just physically.
I continue to relive this again and again. I think about the boy and his parents and what might have happened if I’d been dialing my phone or tuning the radio. He had no chance against my car at 40mph. Though I wasn’t even going quite the speed limit, I would have killed him, as I’d had no time to even slow down.
We all learned something. That close was too close. Pay attention. The text, the radio, the phone call can wait.