Heading up through Sonoma county to our destination for the Memorial Day weekend we found ourselves in crap Petaluma traffic which is so often the norm. We had been dancing around with a very nicely put together 2nd gen Tacoma on the highway and had offered up a reciprocated “Hey man, nice truck” in the few minutes leading up to this somewhat tense situation.
At about 11:45am, right past the Highway 116 interchange we found ourselves again in stop-and-go crap traffic when I happened to spot, up ahead in the Southbound lanes, a fast, jerky movement that seemed incompatible with the flow of traffic. As my brain was beginning to wrap itself around the action and translate the movement into the physics involved and potentialities we saw the large truck veer at a near 90 degrees angle directly into the reinforced concrete wall separating the Northbound and Southbound lanes, at speed. We saw our new Tacoma friends, two cars ahead of us, have to swerve out of the way as the truck impacted the wall right where they were.
Taking my foot off the throttle and holding my breath hoping the truck wouldn’t smash through the concrete barrier we tried to preemptively move one lane to the right but several drivers there had their heads embedded and continuing to drive at normal speed unawares of the possible impending disaster. So, we were forced to slow even further just in time to see the large truck slam into a pickup truck towing a trailer as they both then scrapped down the side of the wall, the big truck with it’s hood now flung off and dust and debris strewn everywhere.
Now realizing that those multiple tons of hurtling steel were not going to slam into us we took a deep breath, ran our windshield washer to clear the debris off our windshield, drove around a few larger pieces of debris that had ended up in our lane and continued on our way North. And, unlike far too many roadcam videos we’ve seen online where the cammer screams “Oh My God” over and over again or just looses their shit and screams like they’re being vivisected by aliens did you notice…I didn’t scream like a little bitch haha.
As we drove away we hoped everyone was okay but knew emergency responders would be there soon (and saw them heading South a couple of minutes later). I also knew that numerous people had just seen the accident and were soon going to pile out of their cars to “help.” Had we pulled to the side of the road and got out to assist as well, I would have just been another gawker and in the way plus I would have had to cross an active highway full of California drivers most of whom had found their driver’s licenses as prizes in Cracker Jack boxes and so decided I would rather live to see another day. Selfishly, I was also thrilled we didn’t get there 2 minutes later or we would have been stuck behind that clusterfuck for at least an hour or more 😉
We have been using one of my old GoPro Hero Sessions as a dash cam for a couple of years now and have captured many things that interest me (but probably wouldn’t interest others) but this is the first time we have caught a crash as it happened. The camera doesn’t do any speed or GPS overlays on the video but I still think it is a useful item to have in case we encounter (or get caught up in) some roadway idiocy and need to prove the other guy is at fault.
Writing this post about a week later and having looked extensively online I have found not one mention of the accident in any of the local media or online resources which is a bit strange considering this probably shut down Highway 101 there for numerous hours. Watching the video I am guessing the large truck was not paying attention to the slowed traffic in front of him, looked up at the last second, swerved just enough to sideswipe and not completely slam head-on into the slowed or stopped traffic and then over-correct right into the center divider carrying along the pickup truck and trailer as an extra, added bonus.
I’ll take this as a good time to remind drivers that California (and many other state’s laws) specify 3 car lengths as a bare minimum spacing between vehicles and now they suggest (but not strongly enough IMHO) that keeping 5 seconds of space between vehicles is a safer alternative. That, obviously, is not at all what the vast majority of drivers practice and so incidents like this are all too common. Heck, I regularly see people driving less than one vehicle length apart, at highway speeds, in traffic, while eating, putting on makeup or checking their phones… in the rain! Absolutely boggles the mind.
Keep your head on a swivel and be safe out there.