No auto accident that damages a favorite vehicle, or even a vehicle that’s just necessary, is funny. Nor is an accident that ruins property or injures the driver, passengers, or innocent bystanders the least bit funny. However, I think you will agree with me that the lead-up to some accidents can be — shall we say — downright interesting?

Consider, for example, the look on our faces when Lolly and I were driving peacefully along one of the main streets of Columbus, Ohio, back in 1966. We had been shopping for some very tasty treats in a local bakery and were on our way back to Lockbourne AFB, which was located several miles south of the city. As the light switched from red to green at a busy intersection, and we began slowly accelerating, a black four-door sedan swept past us from behind doing at least 45 to 50 miles an hour. Hanging out of three of the windows — and perhaps out of the driver’s window too, for all we could see — were four to five people, all waving their arms and screaming, “LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT! LOOK OUT!”

Down the narrow city street the sedan sped, narrowly missing oncoming traffic as it twisted and turned back and forth across the road and passed the three cars ahead of us.

“Good Lord!” Lolly asked me. “What’s wrong with those people? Are they crazy?”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with them,” I told her, “but from the roaring, out-of-control sound of their engine I would guess that their accelerator pedal return spring has broken.”

There was no time to explain further. I stepped on my brakes and slowed down as I saw how close we were getting to the next intersection, where the light was just turning red. As we watched from six cars back, the black four-door sailed into the intersection through a now red light, glanced off a car trying to make a legal crossing, twisted toward its right, crossed the intersection diagonally, and not only smashed through the diagonal front doors of a drugstore located on the corner, but on its way across the intersection went right through a heavy stream of pedestrians who had started to cross the road.

Not wanting any part of that mess, I made a careful U-turn and headed for another street that intersected with the highway leading to the base. The next day we read the aftermath of the accident in the local paper. Frankly, I have forgotten most of the details of that report, but even if I remembered all of them I would not quote them here.

I am sure you can imagine what could happen in a car stuffed with passengers who had no seat belts on because auto manufacturers were just beginning to install seat belts in their cars. And as for those pedestrians, and anyone in the store, thoughts about that are best set aside as too gruesome to read about in detail. Suffice it to say that the news report was horrifying!

The main thing about all this is that it need never have happened. It would have been almost childishly simple for the driver to have entirely avoided the mess he or she got into.

How do I know that?

As it happens, the same thing had occurred to me while I was driving a few years earlier. Next week: One the scariest experiences I have ever had in a moving vehicle.

And one of the simplest solutions ...

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