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Hit a Fence - Worst Night of My Life

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Hit a Fence - Worst Night of My Life

Old 03-01-08, 12:10 PM
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Hit a Fence - Worst Night of My Life

So I was having a good night with a old fashioned snowball fight on the Wave Field (exactly what it sounds like). My friends buried me in snow for about an hour, which wasn't as cold as you'd think. Then we played Scategories, and all the while it was snowing. I went to leave at about 1:30 AM and luckily I had thought to park my car on the side of the road instead of in my friend's downward-sloping driveway.

I had no problem getting out, but on the road home there's this 90 degree turn that has a decent enough radius. If the road hadn't turned, it would have run through the house, so that's probably why there's a cedar fence there. It's a favorite spot for accidents, in fact just two weeks prior a guy had pretty much missed the turn and gone straight into it.

So I'm going between 20-25, a little below the speed limit, and there was a light dusting of snow on the road, no more than an inch. I enter the turn, and for some reason as I'm coming out of it I brake a little. My wheels lock up (no antilock/ABS) and next thing I know I feel like I'm a bowling ball with bits of the fence flying. The tangent took me right through the end of the fence near their driveway, inches from a tree (either the tree or the fence took out my right side-view mirror). I'd never been driving in an accident before and it was all very surreal for a second. I thought "Did that really just happen?" and then screamed "****!"

So I'm kind of in a ditch, half on the road, so I try to pull forward to their driveway. My car wouldn't budge. I get out and notice that there's some of the wood from the fence under my wheels, so I remove it and try again. No luck. I get out and there's still more wood that I hadn't noticed. I slide it out and my car starts moving forward.. I had left it in drive. I quickly run around the open door and stomp on the brake, still half out of the car. Luckily it stops before hitting another tree across their driveway, and I manage to manuever it down their driveway a little. I get out and survey the damage. A link of their fence is gone, and so is my SVM. But otherwise my car's okay. Evidently the roads were a lot slicker than I thought.. I've never seen them this bad.

It was late and I didn't want to wake the homeowners so I scoured my car for a writing instrument and paper. No luck. I write "SORRY I WILL BE BACK" in the snow on their walkway and go to back out of their driveway. My wheels just spin. Turns out there's a consistent layer of ice under the several inches of snow on their driveway, and to make matters worse it's sloped up a little to get to the road. I pull forward hoping to get a grip somewhere so I can gather momentum. The whole damn driveway is ice. After plenty of trial and error, I get out my floor mats and put them behind my wheels. To my surprise they work pretty well, I'm able to travel backward for about two feet before spinning out again. So I repeat about 25 times. Sometimes it works wonderfully, others the wheel just throws the mat. It took me a full 45 minutes to back out of their 20 foot long driveway. The whole time three cars pass, but no one stops. I should probably mention that my car is an old Ford front wheel drive station wagon with worn tires - not the best for snow.

Anyway, I got home and had the best drink of orange juice I've ever had, then fell asleep. This morning I drove out to talk to the homeowners and as I pull up there's already a man there surveying the damage. I wave as I walk towards him and say "That was me..." He was very kind and understanding, but it turns out he was just renting the property, so I gave him the piece of paper I had written up in case no one was home with my number and name on it so that the landlord could call. I feel terrible and I'm prepared to make it right.. but hopefully it wont cost too much as I'm pretty strapped for cash. Also, on my way there I noticed that there was something wrong with my steering.. I can't exactly describe it, but while going straight the steering wheel is maybe 20 degrees to the left of center (as opposed to dead on center), and I think the response feels a little different. Anyone have any tips before I bring it to a shop?

And that's basically where it stands.. I feel like **** and just felt like typing, so sorry this is so long. I'm really thankful nothing too serious happened - personal harm, irreparable property damage, etc.
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Old 03-01-08, 12:16 PM
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most people would have walked, i'm sure everthing will be fine. besides, one section of wooden fence is not expensive at all.
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Old 03-01-08, 12:37 PM
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Glad to hear that you are ok.

I had a similar experience many years ago. I was driving on Highway 1 in northern California, going around a tight bend, when I realised that a driver was in my lane coming around the other way.

I steered to the right, not even thinking about the fact that I could have gone off the road and landed in the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately for me, I went off the road and into a sheep pasture, breaking the barbed wire fence. I could not get back out due to the steep angle, and of course, I did not want the sheep escaping through the fence onto the highway. I was trapped, and figured I could be there for hours waiting.

Strangely, the very next person who drove by was a brother of the owner. He made sure I was all right, and drove off to get his brother. I gave the owner my name and address, and he unlocked the pasture gate to let me out.

I never heard from him. I guess he figured that it was only barbed wire, and easily repaired. None of the sheep had been hurt, and none had escaped.

You did the right thing by going back. I don't think a section of fence is going to cost that much--perhaps a few hundred dollars at best.

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Old 03-01-08, 12:42 PM
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Glad you're ok.
Sounds like an actual accident.

Sounds like the front end alignment is off, typical of hitting and umping the front wheels, like a curb. no biggie to get fixed.
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Old 03-01-08, 12:52 PM
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If that's the worst night of your life, you must be very young and/or very blessed. For me, that would just be an amusing story to tell: "And it took me 45 minutes to just go 20 feet!" As long as no one gets hurt, you can always cast your misadventures as funny stories. Well, actually even when someone gets hurt, sometimes it's funny.
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Old 03-01-08, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by TRaffic Jammer View Post
Glad you're ok.
Sounds like an actual accident.

Sounds like the front end alignment is off, typical of hitting and umping the front wheels, like a curb. no biggie to get fixed.
Ah, that's good to hear.. you think I'll be able to drive in the mean time? EDIT: I looked it up, looks like tire wear is the likeliest concern. Maybe I'll find a tire shop that does alignments for cheap when you buy tires. I need three new ones anyway.

Carbonlife, I am pretty young.. and yeah, it's sort of petty, but nothing like this has happened to me before so I guess I'm a little shaken. Unless I go broke because of this I bet I'll look back on it fondly.

I was really surprised by the amount of momentum a car has. Plowing through the fence was like a knife through butter, I didn't even feel the impact. In fact, I had to have been decelerated pretty rapidly, but I don't really remember feeling that much force, and I didn't hit the steering wheel or anything. I just had my foot on the brake and once the wood got caught under my wheels, I probably went from 20mph to 0 in less than five feet.

But yeah.. I'll probably have worse nights in the future. I've been lucky so far

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Old 03-01-08, 02:02 PM
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I'd like to first say that I'm glad that you weren't hurt, and that the only damage was to inanimate objects that can be replaced. I'm also glad to hear that you owned up to it and that the renter didn't call the police.

Had he done so, you would've been found at fault and ticketed, and likely had your unsafe vehicle towed...if you'd stayed. If he'd called after you left, you'd be liable for a hit-and-run. You knew your car was not the best for the conditions, are driving with bald tires, knew that the turn was hazardous and yet were still driving too fast for conditions.

I know that sounds harsh, but when I was 19, I was in a snow accident myself. Having just driven for 20 miles and enjoying how much traction my 4X4 Subaru had, especially with studded tires on all four tires, I was headed back to work. After just driving past my house, I came upon a truck that was parked well out from the curb, right on a blind corner. Annoyed at the audacity of this jerk, I slowed down to less than 25MPH to move past it in what was left of the lane...and at that exact moment, another car was trying to do the same. I panicked, hit the brake and slid diagonally into the other car head-on.

No one was seriously hurt, but my car and the other were undriveable, the driver turned out to be my neighbor from two doors away. The police showed up, did an investigation and all three cars were towed (although no one had struck the truck, it was determined to be illegally parked).

I felt the accident was the fault of the illegally parked truck, so when my neighbor started harassing me on the phone to admit fault in the accident to speed up their claim, I told them I'd wait for the police report as my insurance company had instructed.

When the police report came in, I was found at fault for "driving too fast for conditions". Conditions in Winter include vehicles not where you'd expect them, road conditions more hazardous than expected, much longer braking distances and lanes narrower due to snow. If you break traction, the accident is your fault, end of story.

I paid for that accident for years in increased insurance rates and the repairs on my own car not covered due to it being my fault. I also learned some very valuable lessons and have not been in a serious accident since not involving an animal randomly jumping in front of my vehicle, but even that eventuality should be counted on. Consider yourself very lucky.
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Old 03-01-08, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by carbonlife View Post
If that's the worst night of your life, you must be very young and/or very blessed. For me, that would just be an amusing story to tell: "And it took me 45 minutes to just go 20 feet!" As long as no one gets hurt, you can always cast your misadventures as funny stories. Well, actually even when someone gets hurt, sometimes it's funny.

No doubt. I thought I was going to read about some serious carnage, ambulance ride, traction/bone setting, blood loss and pain.


p.s. Carry a bag of cat litter in the trunk. If you are stuck on ice, throw a couple handfulls out and you are on your way.
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Old 03-01-08, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Boss Moniker View Post
Ah, that's good to hear.. you think I'll be able to drive in the mean time? EDIT: I looked it up, looks like tire wear is the likeliest concern. Maybe I'll find a tire shop that does alignments for cheap when you buy tires. I need three new ones anyway.
Most importantly its a good thing your ok.

I would drive as very little as possible until you can get your vehicle looked at. An alignment issue would be nice, but you could have a bent tie-rod or another part of your steering that is damaged. You really don't want to find out the hard way that your issue is worse than a simple alignment.

Driving in snow takes practice. I'm glad you knew what you did wrong, by braking late in the turn. If you had to touch your brakes in the turn, you entered too fast, especially in snow. Next time you have snow on the ground, find yourself a large open empty parking lot with very few if any light poles. The best way to learn how to control emergency situations is to cause them on purpose, and then correct and bring your car back under control. The goal is not to just to go spin around and rev your engine alot, but find out what causes your car to lose traction (try breaking traction by accelerating, braking, and doing both in a turn), and how to recover from that. Taking an experienced driver, like a parent, will help alot as well.
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Old 03-01-08, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by ianjk View Post
No doubt. I thought I was going to read about some serious carnage, ambulance ride, traction/bone setting, blood loss and pain.


p.s. Carry a bag of cat litter in the trunk. If you are stuck on ice, throw a couple handfulls out and you are on your way.
Be careful with this in a FWD car. Cat litter is heavy and can easily take essential weight off the drive wheels, thereby reducing traction.

Also, I understand that you wouldn't normally do that, but braking in a corner in terrible conditions is not a great idea. As little change in output as possible is ideal.
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Old 03-02-08, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post
Consider yourself very lucky.
It was certainly my fault, I have no problem accepting that. The owner of the house contacted me minutes ago and he suggested what I was thinking: I pay for the replacement fence parts, and I help install it. It'll be a couple of months before the ground is workable enough to do the work, but I'll be there alongside him when I have to.

Cnickgo, trust me I have at least some experience driving in winter (this would be my third year driving in SE Michigan). I've even done what you suggested, practice in an empty lot, a couple of times and the practice has helped get me out of other hairy situations. But this one was special. The roads were particularly bad (the homeowner cut me some slack, admitting that he had trouble driving on that night as well). And I didn't actually brake because I felt I was going to fast. In fact, I'm not sure why I braked at all. I was already 80% of the way through the turn when I braked.

So this just reinforces what I've believed for a while - all young drivers are inherently poor. Experience makes such a huge difference in driving skill, and it is measured in years - not months. I have friends that can't accept this and drive like they own the road, assuming all other drivers are incompetent morons. Overall, this was experience and although it's damaging in the short run, it'll certainly prove useful in the future.
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Old 03-02-08, 05:40 PM
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Snow chains > kitty litter.

Kitty litter may help you get out of a ditch, but chains will keep you from getting there in the first place. The trick Boss did with the floormats can also be done with snowchains until you get to a place where you can install them properly. $30 in chains could've made that a much shorter evening's adventure.
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Old 03-02-08, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankshaftYQX View Post
Be careful with this in a FWD car. Cat litter is heavy and can easily take essential weight off the drive wheels, thereby reducing traction.

I meant like a freezer bag or coffee can full Only a pound or two.
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Old 03-02-08, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Boss Moniker View Post
Also, on my way there I noticed that there was something wrong with my steering.. I can't exactly describe it, but while going straight the steering wheel is maybe 20 degrees to the left of center (as opposed to dead on center), and I think the response feels a little different. Anyone have any tips before I bring it to a shop?.
Here's my tip: get it to a shop now! Don't mess with steering. Do it tomorrow morning, seriously. As far as the accident, no great shakes, nobody got hurt. Good on ya for following up.
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Old 03-02-08, 08:40 PM
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Have had my share of mishaps. And learned from them as well (most were my fault - too fast, careless in a wintery condition). And very nice of the homeowner to work with you on this too! Doing the right thing with him is good all around. Good luck with the car!
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Old 03-03-08, 01:19 AM
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You weren't driving this, were you?

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Old 03-03-08, 08:34 AM
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There is very little you can do when you are sliding on ice, at least you had the sence to be going slow, but with ice under the wheels, your screwed. I've been there. I't nice that you went back, I'll bet that fence have had lots of cars hit it.
This reminds me of when I had a job as a handy man. I got a call to replace a mailbox post, an easy job.
So I load up my concrete mixing stuff, and shovels, the customer already had the post, and go on over to the guys house. I get there, and my my stuff out, the homeowner meets me and says "don't bother, just pull out the old(broken) one, and stick the new on in the same hole, forget the concrete" Ok, your the boss. I put in the new post, pack the dirt as best I could and mount the mail box, done in 30 minutes. He didn't want to pay for me to dispose of the old post, so I ask him where he wants me to put it. "Behind the shed, with the others." WTF does that mean? So I pick it up and take it behind his shed. There is a pile of broken posts. WTF. So I ask him why he didn't want the concrete, and what was up with the pile of broken posts. "I'm right on the curve, they only last six months before somebody goes to fast and slides into it and snaps it off, the concrete would just make it too hard to replace" Then I look at the street, and the brand new post, it looks like a target.
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Old 03-03-08, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by leob1 View Post
There is very little you can do when you are sliding on ice, at least you had the sence to be going slow, but with ice under the wheels, your screwed. I've been there. I't nice that you went back, I'll bet that fence have had lots of cars hit it.
This reminds me of when I had a job as a handy man. I got a call to replace a mailbox post, an easy job.
So I load up my concrete mixing stuff, and shovels, the customer already had the post, and go on over to the guys house. I get there, and my my stuff out, the homeowner meets me and says "don't bother, just pull out the old(broken) one, and stick the new on in the same hole, forget the concrete" Ok, your the boss. I put in the new post, pack the dirt as best I could and mount the mail box, done in 30 minutes. He didn't want to pay for me to dispose of the old post, so I ask him where he wants me to put it. "Behind the shed, with the others." WTF does that mean? So I pick it up and take it behind his shed. There is a pile of broken posts. WTF. So I ask him why he didn't want the concrete, and what was up with the pile of broken posts. "I'm right on the curve, they only last six months before somebody goes to fast and slides into it and snaps it off, the concrete would just make it too hard to replace" Then I look at the street, and the brand new post, it looks like a target.
Yeah, this fence gets hit two or three times a year. There was a section taken out just a couple weeks ago, though it wasn't quite as bad as mine. It's a little ironic, I drove past it just about every day and I would always observe the damage and repair. I always thought I was safe enough to avoid it, but I guess not.
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