I could have sworn the road was clear. I thought I was sure.
But when I pulled into the oncoming, westbound lane of U.S. Highway 40 in Grand County on a bright Sunday morning, trying to pass a truck towing a trailer, there was a car there. Right there. My guess is that a moment before, the car was at the bottom of a slope a few hundred yards ahead. I didn't see it until I was in its lane.
I was headed to Denver to check out the Mile High Music Festival with a close friend who lives in the city. I was driving alone. Summer morning, sun shining, coffee in the cupholder.
Suddenly, the little red car was a few feet from my bumper. I was driving 65 mph in a 60 mph zone.
I jerked the steering wheel to my right, pulling back into my lane and braking to avoid the trailer I had hoped to pass. Skidding too far across the road, I tried to correct and turned the wheel left. That was when I lost control of my Honda CR-V, a family car my mother had driven safely for years. I remember going off the westbound side of the road, headed for a ditch.
It felt like time stopped.
I don't remember the air bags deploying. I don't remember being inverted. I don't remember the car rolling and coming to rest on its wheels.
Then there was a woman standing outside my window, asking if I was all right while flagging down cars and trying her cell phone. Barb from Broomfield, thank you. Two passersby who said they were EMTs appeared. They told me not to move, checked my vital signs and examined me for internal or external injuries. One of them even had a stethoscope. Amazingly, everything important checked out fine. Chris and Sam from Colorado Springs, thank you.
I remained sitting in my driver's seat. The windshield was severely cracked. Windows were broken. A door and the roof were damaged. The air bags were deflated and had blood on them. Coffee and blood were splattered on my shorts, shirt and shins.
I was in shock but coherent. An ambulance arrived from Kremmling, followed by one from Granby. Responders put a thick brace around my neck, strapped me to a backboard and rolled me to my first ambulance ride, back to Steamboat Springs and Yampa Valley Medical Center.
The non-emergency ride offered plenty of time to think about what I had just done. Fortunately, I was the only person hurt and my car was the only one damaged.
To all the responders and YVMC staff, thank you.
Colorado State Patrol cited me for careless driving, a violation I do not contest.
While I was lying on an ER bed, a nurse watched me mentally berating myself and said: "If it makes you feel any better, I'll drive home a little slower tonight."
It made me feel better. Thank you, Dan.
And that is the message which, though obvious, escaped me Sunday morning. Drive safely. Think and check twice, or three times, before passing. Be patient. Wear a seatbelt.
There are so many more important things than getting somewhere quickly.
Like the safety of others. Like getting there at all.
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