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My first car crash & my second car - Frances Bea
My first car crash & my second car
I've never been in a car crash before - at least not while I was driving, and certainly not in my own car. A week ago today I was trying to take an exit from I-87 to I-90, I guess I was momentarily distracted looking at the exit signs, or else my brakes just didn't work as well as those of the vehicle ahead of me, but when he slammed his brakes and I slammed by brakes it did not stop me from hitting the car ahead and totaling my own.

The Focus is a small car. It gets good gas mileage because it's light, not because it's sophisticated like a hybrid or electric car. I got it in 2001 when it was one year old, and given the energetic way Fords shed resale value - it saved me a couple grand to do it that way. For more than four years now it's been completely paid for, and I've been paying only insurance (most expensive), gas, and maintenance (least expensive) on it. According to Consumer Reports, the most important problem with the Ford Focus is reliability. I never had much trouble with it, but I might have had trouble in the future... maybe.

Anyway, being so-light-that-it's-fuel-efficient is not necessarily an advantage in a fight. When my car took on the Dodge Ram ahead of me (mostly my fault), it lost badly. As you can see in the picture, the Ram noticed I was there, but was more annoyed than hurt. The driver asked me for my insurance information and gave me his, which I copied down with a very shaky hand. I'm pretty sure that he hoped to avoid trouble by leaving the scene before the police arrived. He promised to lend me his phone to call them, but never actually did, even when I repeatedly brought it up. Not an unreasonable desire, I guess, since he was not technically at fault and his vehicle was not seriously injured.

I was immensely grateful when my cousins arrived not much later. They must have left our get-together shortly after I did, because they saw me on the side of the exit ramp and pulled over. The three sisters with the oldest's two baby boys in car seats didn't leave any room for me, but it was so comforting to have them there. The guy whose truck I hit finally called the police himself when he saw my cousin was about to. They stayed with me until the police came, made sure I was okay, and called my uncle who, happily, lives only a few miles away. The police officer who arrived also helped to settle my nerves. My uncle arrived and once my business with the police and the tow truck driver was resolved he took me to his place.

My uncle and aunt were really great. From their home I was able to collect myself, contact my insurance company and figure out my next steps. I was three hours' drive away from home, and the bus situation did not look encouraging. I ate dinner there, and they agreed to drive me half way home, while my mother drove to meet them half way. In the end I put three people to hours of extra driving that night, but no one had to drive six hours (there and back) to deliver me home. During the drive I got more time to talk to them than I often do, and I was grateful for that as well as for them going so far out of the way to help me out. (I did get a little of a guilt trip from them for my not having finished the new Harry Potter book, but I have now, so I'll be ready next time I see them!)

Once home I had to bum rides for a day and a half until my insurance company got me into a rental. On Tuesday it was confirmed that my car was a total loss, and I was warned that the insurance company would pay for my rental car for only three days after they made me an offer for a settlement. The next couple of days I started researching vehicles and hoping they wouldn't make an offer too quickly, because buying a car is a big decision and I was feeling rushed about it. On Thursday the offer came in and I would have to return the rental by Saturday or else pay for it myself. I had been doing some reading though, and Thursday evening after work I drove down to the Toyota dealership to look at the Yaris.

I had been thinking for years that my next car would be a hybrid, but when it was time to actually spend the money, I had second thoughts. The hybrid sedans were all much more expensive than I hoped, and enjoyed only small advantages in gas mileage over the smaller compact sedans - like my old Focus. There were a couple of used hybrid Civics at the Honda dealership. They were fairly reasonably priced, but they both had manual transmission. Once upon a time I learned to drive a manual, and could again, but I didn't want to commit myself to constant shifting for the lifetime of my new vehicle, which would hopefully be a good long while.

I considered getting another Focus, but there were a number of other vehicles that might do just as well or better at delivering excellent efficiency for less money. There wasn't any absolute standout, but the price and features of the Toyota Yaris looked good to me. When I went to the dealership there was a Yaris on the lot with exactly the combination of options I would have chosen if I had special ordered it. (Well, I might have chosen the jade green exterior.) I had doubts about buying a new car, but it wasn't an expensive vehicle and I was convinced that I wouldn't save much even if I searched high and low for a used one. Pressured by the need to return my rental car and my conviction that this really was the right car, I decided right then to buy it. They put all the various paperwork through very quickly, and had the car ready for me to pick up with new license plates Friday afternoon. Enterprise Rentals really will pick you up as they say, and they'll also drop you off. I returned the rental to them after work Friday, and they drove me to the Toyota dealership where we finalized the purchase and I drove home in my new 2007 Toyota Yaris.

The dashboard in the Yaris is almost alarmingly bare. With all the dials and controls in the center of the dash instead of behind the wheel it takes a little getting used to. The car has all the features that are most important to me, but lacks some that I've never really cared about, like automatic windows. The automatic transmission has a styling which looks like it belongs on a manual, but once I get used to it I should be able to find a gear by feel instead of by eye, unusual in an automatic.

Another feature I'll really appreciate is this little auxiliary audio input jack. (You may be able to see it on the right.) It's to allow someone to connect a portable music player and have the sound come through the car's speakers. In my focus I had a cassette player and accomplished the same thing using a phony audio cassette that connected to the headphone jack in my PDA. It wasn't ideal, because it added all the noise that usually accompanies playing a cassette tape. This will be much better, but I'm going to need a new cable to hook it up correctly so it won't work for me until I get myself over to Radio Shack. Once I do I'll have added clarity listening to my Pimsleur Mandarin Chinese lessons, which will probably be good for my pronunciation.

I really think this is the right car for me right now, and am very happy about the purchase. I'm still need to complain to my dealer about one thing though: I stopped and got groceries and a bottle of champagne on my way home after finishing the deal, and the car had alarm bells going off half the rest of the way home. It thought my groceries were a passenger and was upset that my passenger wasn't wearing a seatbelt! According to my owner's manual, "The buzzer can be disabled. For details, contact your Toyota dealer." I guess I'll be calling him on Monday.
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From: (Anonymous) Date: August 23rd, 2007 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm sooo sorry to hear about your accident. I'm glad that Nikki happened by and that you are okay. You're right about the dashboard looking odd. Is it hard to drive like that? Tracy
frances_bea From: frances_bea Date: August 23rd, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Accident

Thanks, Tracy.

The odd dashboard takes a little adjusting, but I got used to it very quickly. I like it because without the usual hump behind the steering wheel with all of displays and controls, I can actually see the road better! Also, with no buttons or controls behind the steering wheel there's no temptation to reach dangerously through the wheel to reach them.
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