I was in an Accident

December 7, 2012 in General by Scott

This is what happened

Yesterday morning, December 5th, while sitting at a stop light on my scooter, a dark gray Chevy Malibu slammed into me from behind, sending my scooter flying out from underneath me and knocking me forward into the air. I landed on my feet. My whole body was naturally jarred on impact, subjected to one of the most basic laws of physics: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I was going north on Washington, stopped at the light at the intersection of 12th. It was about 9am. I was driving up to La Sandwicherie to get a latte in preparation for the long day ahead. I had been scheduled to work that day but an emergency came up the day prior so I switched my schedule with another driver so I could tend to the situation.

As I sat at the light, a number of people, five or six by peripheral estimation, were on the sidewalk. All of a sudden… WHAM!!! I’m hit. Was not looking in the rear-view, was not expecting or prepared for it, so there was no bracing for impact. Just all of a sudden, my body was twisting. My back contort as my scooter went flying out from me. Instantaneous reality shift and then my brain catches up. Whereas a split-second ago, I was sitting on my scooter, thinking about coffee and the day ahead, here I am now, standing in the street having just been hit from behind.

“What the fuck,” I yell in pain, shock, and irritation. My eyes turn, I see the vehicle that has hit me, and I focus on its driver, sitting casually with window down behind the wheel.

“What the fuck?!?!”
“Sorry,” he says, waving his hand in nothing more than acknowledgement of my addressing him.

“Sorry?!?”

As if he had just made some social faux pas like inadvertently cutting in line in front of me at the grocery store. No, you dick. You just hit me! You just caused a wreck, slamming into the back of me while I was sitting at a stop light! You knocked me off of my fucking scooter!

“Sorry?!?!?!” Not even, “I’m sorry?!?!”
And you’re not even going to get out of your fucking car to find out if I’m alright?!?! Or even fucking ask?!?

What the fuck is wrong with you?!?

I’m livid. I’m hurt. My scooter is crashed and, at a minimum, the back right tail light has been knocked off the scooter. I notice this as I reach over and pull the scooter up. I stand in front of his car, inspecting my scooter. Obviously, I can stand. I didn’t have any scratches, though one of my toes in my left foot felt pinched. I couldn’t figure out how that happened. Everything happened instantly and unexpectedly. I think if the whole accident had been filmed at 60 frames per second, then maybe then I could see what happened to my foot.

So I push the scooter to the curb. I was somewhat correct in my estimations of people on the sidewalk: there were about five to six people standing there, having just witnessed what happened. And bearing witness to everything that is now going on. So I slowly push my scooter over to the edge of the road, leaving enough room for him to pull in behind me.

The light changes and he floors it.
He fucking floors it.

I walk out away from my scooter to read his plate as he speeds off. I say it out loud almost in unison with two of the people standing there (now witnesses to a hit-and-run) as they read it out loud as well. It was a clear day. It was 9am. Three of us read it out loud together without problem.

I call the Police

Immediately, I call 911. I’m less than a block away from the headquarters on the corner of 11th and Washington. I tell the dispatcher what happened, give them the tag number on the phone.

“Alpha Bravo Peter…”
“No, Alpha Victor Peter,” I say.

I get off the phone. One of the witnesses who caught the plate number offers to stay. Two or three (maybe all) of the others who were just sort of meandering in the area linger around.

In a couple of minutes, an officer and a plain-clothes detective are crossing the street, heading to Starbucks on the northeast corner of the street. The witness (David, I believe his name was) flags them down, runs across the street to tell them what has happened. They come over. The officers (very, very polite) get some information. They get the tag number.

While we’re talking, a police cruiser pulls up, and another officer gets out. Again, very polite. The officers confer together and he begins taking notes in his pad, getting the plate number again. I recount again the accident, the chronology. As does the witness.

About this time, a public safety vehicle pulls up and parks just in front of my scooter. When the officer stepped out of the vehicle, I honestly thought she had pulled over to cite me for having my scooter parked in the crosswalk. But she was there for the accident. I am now confused and have no idea which one is there as the officially dispatched officer.

Again, I recount the events. The other officer provides his notes on the incident including plate number. Again, polite officer. The witness provides his name to one of the last two officers on the scene. (The first two officers had left by this time, understandably.)

All of the officers had asked if I needed medical attention or an ambulance. I said I didn’t think it was necessary. I was standing. My back was a little sore and my toe was pinched or something. But I was walking. So no.

The witness then leaves. I thank him for his help. I continue to talk to the Public Safety officer. The second officer then walks back from his car and I hear him say that the plate traces back to a rental agency. Which seems to make a little sense to me because while I could clearly read the digits on the plate, the plate itself didn’t have the standard Florida plate look. It looked like a temporary plate or something. Just black lettering.

I express to whoever is listening my utter aggravation and disbelief with how someone can just drive away from the scene of the crime. Everyone naturally concurs that it is unconscionable behavior. The officers joke that he was probably foreign, in town for Art Basel, rented a car, and perhaps they didn’t have the same laws in their country where you have to stop for an accident.

And then they ask what I want to do. Since I seemed to be okay and there wasn’t any noticeable damage beyond a broken taillight. No pressure, they said. It’s up to me, they said. Count your blessings, they said.

“I guess nothing?”

Like Nothing Happened

The officer that remained at the time, the officer driving the Public Safety vehicle, asked me how the food was at La Sandwicherie. We had a discussion about the sandwiches. Which one would I recommend. And then we were done.

Then I got back on my scooter, was able to get it started and drove it to the shop to get a latte. Told the owner, my boss, what had happened. Reminded him that I was off for the day, having switched with another driver. Got my latte and left, my day now completely thrown out of whack.

As the day progressed, my back hurt more and more. Mostly my lower back. Though not crazy pain or anything. Just a soreness. Then I would feel occasional spasms or muscle pain in my upper back muscles. Pains would come and go in my legs. My feet. My knees. Nothing too bad, it seemed. I went about the day mostly without incident, tending as much as I could to the situation for which I had taken a day off from work. Napped a few times.

At some point, I took a break from what I was doing and inquired on Facebook as to what others would do. And I got the advice from friends and family as well. Everyone concurred: “Go to the doctor, get yourself checked out, go back to the police.”

I talked to people who I know in the medical profession and they asked me what my pain level was. I said that I guessed it might be a 4?

Today I was more sore. And tonight, I’m still sore but that might be normal. I think I’m probably okay but I don’t know. Tomorrow, I go back to work, driving around the beach on my scooter. Saturday, if I don’t feel better, I will likely go to the VA Hospital to have them take a look at me.

I’m a Professional. You should be, too.

I’ve worked as a scooter delivery driver for over two years on this beach. I’m paid to drive my scooter all over the beach (an area notorious for horrible, horrible drivers). I would argue that I am probably one of the safest drivers on the beach. I spend my work days avoiding traffic accidents; that’s what I do. Obeying the rules of the road. Yielding the right of way. Watching and analyzing all of the varying and different components at intersection after intersection. Paying attention to every piece of the traffic equation so I can get from point a to point b without incident. And efficiently.

And why did I ever take a job as a scooter delivery driver to begin with? Because I had a skill set like nobody else: Less than two years prior, I drove a 50cc scooter from Miami Beach to Los Angeles. AND back. 8,000 miles total. With 60+ pounds strapped to my back. Doing the same exact thing (avoiding accidents, analyzing traffic patterns, etc) only on a much, much larger and much, much chaotic scale.

In ALLLLLL of that time, I’ve been in only two accidents. And never with another vehicle. Once, on the cross-country trip, I wiped out at a scenic overlook off a deserted mountain road. And then, almost two years later and about six months after I started the scooter delivery gig, I wiped out on Washington Ave, avoiding hitting the reckless driver who swerved in front of me.

Traffic is a continuously evolving organism that you become part of when you get on or near the road. There are no consistent rules. You can’t make any assumptions. At all. You can’t assume that because traffic patterns behaved one way at an intersection that they will behave the same at another. You can’t even assume that if the traffic patterns remain relatively constant at ONE intersection that they will always be constant at that intersection. The largest variable in traffic is the minds of the people connected at any particular point within the organism. Like at an intersection. The average car drivers, the exotic car drivers, the impatient, the agitated horn-blower, the truck driver, the rental truck driver, the tourist uncertain of where they are going, the cab driver without a fare, the cab driver with a fare, the people on bikes (who almost consistently blow through intersections across the beach as if they have the supreme right of way, regardless of light color, cars around, or yield/stop signs), the people on Segways or any of the other touristy transport systems, the skateboarders going against traffic in the street, the dog-walkers, the baby-stroller pushers, the homeless wanderers, the drunks walking home, the joggers, the group of kids just getting out of school, the people on cell-phones (mostly in cars), the people with earplugs in their ears, the tourists on rented scooters, the bus drivers (the most consistent on the road), and on and on and on.

I’m careful. I pay attention. I’m safe. I’m a professional. But what I do and the way I drive should be absolutely no different than anyone else on the road. That’s part of why I was initially upset, too. How can you get behind the wheel of any vehicle on public roads – inject yourself into this constantly shifting and chaotic organism – and not pay attention to what you’re doing? You’re handling a huge piece of machinery that can kill someone easily if you aren’t careful.

I know accidents happen. I know this. But I’m furious this guy did what he did. I’m also a little mad at the police for not just saying, “OK, we’ve already traced the plate to a rental agency. Won’t be any trouble picking him up. Great that you got the plate number and had a witness here!” But that didn’t happen.

Twist

In the early evening of that same day, I made a quick trip to the store on my scooter. On the way home (actually, as I was parking my scooter), I saw blue lights behind me. I was being pulled over. For a broken tail light. My headlamp wasn’t as bright as it should’ve been, either, and then the officer noticed my front tire was balding so he wrote me a “Fix it” ticket.

Was he very, very nice and polite? He was. Actually, he was super nice and I had relayed to him how I had been in a hit-and-run that very morning. And he owned a bike and so we swapped some stories. He was right in every way for writing me the ticket and I respect that he stopped me for that. I wasn’t mad in any way shape or form (I had no reason to be) and really enjoyed talking to him. And he was kind enough to explain to to me the numerous ways I could take care of the “fix it” ticket with little to no cost. But the irony of being stopped and written a ticket for a broken tail light on my scooter on the same day that I got hit? My god.

And I NEVER interact with the police. And now twice in one day.

Three Business Days

To follow up on the hit-and-run, I went back to the police station today, the earliest chance I had. I went to the reception area.

“Can I help you?”
“Yeah, I was involved in an accident, the victim of a hit-and-run yesterday and I want to press charges.”
“It happened yesterday?”
“Yes.”
“And they filed a report?”
“Yes.”
“Then they’re already investigating it. You can come back and get a copy of the report in three business days.”
“Okay.”

And that was that. In three business days, I’ll return and hopefully get this matter settled. It should be pretty straightforward, it seems like from their end. I could probably solve the case myself since I have the internet, a phone, and his license plate number.

Press charges might not be the right terminology for what I want to do, though. What I want is simple: I want the person that hit me and then drove off to be held accountable. I want an apology. I want him to pay for the damages to my scooter. And if I have medical issues as a result of him slamming into me, I want him to pay for them. I don’t want $8.2M. I’m not looking to cash out. I just want what is fair. I want justice.

I would like to see him have his license suspended. If he can’t respect others on the road, he doesn’t need to be driving. At least not a car. It seems only fair that for hit-and-run, he shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

Ideally, I’d like to see him undergo professional counseling (at his expense, not the state’s) to help him understand why he made such a poor decision and hopefully avoid making similarly poor, narcissistic decisions in the future.

But that’s it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. And hopefully, the police will resolve this. Three officers AND a 911 dispatcher recorded the plate number. They already traced it back to a rental agency. I understand Art Basel’s in town and they’ve probably got bigger concerns. But a crime was committed. And I’d like to see some justice.

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