My Scariest Moment Behind The Wheel

So JayG  has asked his readers what their scariest moment behind the wheel (or as a passenger) was, and I figured I’d pass the meme along. Unfortunately, I’ve had several memorable moments of terror in automobiles, several of which occurred when I was driving. One actually happened a few weeks back: I was heading to work on 202 when the guy in front of me suddenly slammed on his brakes. Fortunately, I wasn’t tailgating him; even so I managed to stop only a few inches from his rear bumper. Drive to work and sat in the parking lot for a few minutes until my hands stopped shaking. However, that’s not the scariest incident I’ve ever had whilst driving. That one happened even before I got my license.

I was 16 and had recently gotten my PA Learner’s Permit. The incident in question occurred during my first lesson with a local driving school. The school apparently has several cars, but I got stuck with a Chevrolet Caprice from the late 90’s. For those of you unfamiliar with the 3rd Generation Caprice, the body feels (and looks) like it’s made out of tin foil. They get dents if you so much as look at them the wrong way.

Anyway, I’m about halfway through the lesson and my instructor has taken me on a long, winding drive up and down some back roads, and by this point I have no clue where I am. We’ve just turned onto this narrow two-way street and are driving up a fairly-steep hill. My instructor is impressed because I’ve finally figured out how to not lose speed while driving up hill.

We were maybe a little over halfway up the hill when it happened. A dump-truck came flying over the top of the hill towards us. He was going way over the limit, and half of the truck was in our lane. I was at about eye-level with a very shiny chrome bumper, and the Cavalier’s driver seat was pretty much in line with his driver’s-side tires. It took me maybe a nano-second to realize I was gonna die if I didn’t do something. So I hauled my steering wheel hard right, planning to drive off onto the shoulder to get out of the way. Which would’ve worked, only my instructor reached over, grabbed the wheel, and tried to steer the car back into the dump truck’s path! We fought over the wheel for what was probably only a second at most (but felt a hell of a lot longer) before we both slammed on the brakes – the Cavalier had been modified with a second brake pedal in the passenger footwell – and came to a stop. The truck missed our side mirror by no more than six inches.

Once I realized that I was not, in fact, dead, and was able to get my breathing and heartbeat back under control, I asked my instructor why in the heck he’d wanted me to drive into a dump truck that would’ve squashed our little Chevy like an oversized soda can. I”ll never forget what he said: “If you’d gone off the road, you would’ve hit a telephone pole, which would’ve been our fault. But if he’d hit us, it would’ve been his fault, so his insurance would’ve had to pay for it. I pretty much exploded on the guy. Yeah, great, it was the other driver’s fault. I’m sure that’ll be very comforting to Mama Raptor as they’re untangling what’s left of her firstborn son’s body out of a crushed Chevy Tin Can and picking teeth and skull fragments out of the dump truck’s grill.

Once I got home, I told Mama Raptor that the only way I’d keep going with those driving lessons (which, if I remember right, I hadn’t been to keen on in the first place) is if she got me scheduled with another instructor. Which she did, thank God.

So, that’s my terrifying encounter with death’s dump truck.

What’s the most scared y’all have ever been on the road?


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