It was seven in the morning, brisk air, and the sun was still low in the sky. I was a quarter of the way on my commute to work, only about half a mile from home. Today was the first ride on a project bike that was a year in the making. Life was feeling pretty damn good. As per usual, I caught the green to turn left onto the one-way, except today, I was hit by a car going 40 miles per hour.
When it happened, I was halfway through my turn, and frankly, I never saw it coming. Although I had all of my lights on, like always, the car that ran the red light didn’t have its headlights on. Needless to say, this was the beginning of weeks full of hurt.
Now, this wasn’t my first rendezvous with the front end of a car. Prior to that day, I’d been hit twice—once by a car pulling out into traffic, and once by an idiot who pulled across gridlock to make an illegal left in front of me. But this time, this time was the first time that I’d been hit by a car, and a really fast moving car at that.
It’s funny. You know that old adage of how your life flashes before your eyes? Well, it doesn’t. You’re too overcome with helplessness and pure terror. In fact, all you have time to do is eke out the word, “shit.” I was drilled just inside from the passenger-side headlight, which sent me towards the heavens. I vividly remember the front half of my bike, literally, separating away from my hands in midair. It was surreal. Already, my right leg’s ability to move and flail was feeling heavily weighted, and as my 15 foot passage through the air was reaching its end, I noticed that my line of sight was aiming towards the ground. I was somersaulting in midair. I had just enough to time to say it again, “shit.”
First to hit was the back of my head, then my legs, then my head, then my back, and then the long skid towards the curb—or so this is what I was told afterwards. Everything was black. No time. No space. No nothing. Just darkness. I was completely helpless, and it didn’t help my situation that the driver only took enough time to get out, look at me, throw some beer cans in the bushes, and try to flee. And I’m lucky that he did that, because it was the only time that a bystander had to apprehend him before he tried to leave me for dead. Hope you’re still having fun in prison, dude.
This brings me to the point, after you’re in an accident, nothing is right. In my case, there was nothing that I could do but get on the stretcher and hope for the best (surprisingly no broken bones by the way). However, it could have been you that was riding with me, and I ask, would you know what to do? Now, I’m not going to get into first aid, here, but it’s important for you to think about this scenario before it happens. In fact, think about a lot, because you need this knowledge to feel as much like a reflex as possible.
So let’s talk basics. The very least you can do, and you should do it right now, is to save your emergency contact in your phone as “ICE” (In Case of Emergency). Like in my situation, this will let the responders know whom to contact if you’re in serious trouble. Secondly, I really recommend getting a Road ID, and if you have any medical conditions or severe allergies, get a medical bracelet already. If you’re carrying all three, you have a good chance that at least one will survive the accident.
With that out of the way, I’m going to put you into the scenario of someone that just got into a medium-level accident. You were hit, you feel like you’re OK, and your natural tendency is get up immediately. Don’t. Stay on the ground, instead. Your body is currently being pumped with a massive rush of adrenaline, and you’re actually going to feel pretty high, as in you’re shaking from head-to-toe kind of high. You won’t be thinking clearly, and your priorities are on another planet. Now, you need to take your time from here on out. If you’re lucky, the driver stopped, and that driver’s natural response is going to be to litter you with questions. This happens faster than you’re even able to right yourself. Just put up the hand, and tell them to hold on a minute. Don’t say anything after that. Some people will try to manipulate your situation, getting you to say things like how you’re at fault and that you don’t need medical attention. Just wait, breathe, and gather yourself.
If you feel the slightest bit wary of your condition, don’t move. Ask the driver or a witness to call the police and then wait. Again, don’t get into an argument. It happens quickly and you can’t defend yourself, so keep your mouth shut. When the police come, tell them the situation, and let them perform the exchange of information between you and the driver. It’s important that you get a report. No matter what the driver or cop says about not needing one, or the “let’s handle this without insurance” conversation, you need to look out for number one and get that report. Believe me, insurance companies are going to make every attempt to screw you over if you don’t have a police report. After all, you have to remember that your auto insurance won’t be representing you a week from now, given that your accident didn’t occur in your car. And, not surprisingly, an opposing agent is going to smell blood in the water the second that they know you don’t have representation.
After the roadside busy work, please do not ride home. The probability of you having a concussion is high. Don’t nurse the pain with a beer and go to bed. Stay alert and invite a friend over to keep an eye on you. And after you made it through the night, it’s time to get your shop estimate for damages to your property. Don’t just go to a buddy’s shop that’ll “hook it up,” because an agent will see right through that for the BS that it is. Go to a reputable shop, bring everything, clothes and helmet included, and get your estimate. Now, you’re prepared for the battle with insurance, and you’re on your way to riding on a new bike.
If you witnessed an accident like this, look out for your fellow cyclist. Advise them to stay quiet, mediate for them with the driver, call the cops, and offer first aid if you’re qualified to administer it. Hopefully, this situation will never happen to you, but there’s never any telling what might happen from one moment to the next. Frankly, it’s best to be prepared in the case of emergency. Ride safe out there.