Right now, I'm just grateful to be here.
Over the weekend B and I witnessed an accident on I95, north of Baltimore. I was driving in the middle lane, doing the speed limit at 65 mph. B was sitting in the passenger seat.
There was a box truck up ahead in the left-hand lane. I hadn't noticed it passing me by, which I would have done if it had been really flying. But it was in the left-hand lane, so it was probably doing around 70.
B saw it before I did. She let out a squeal. Then I saw the puff of dust and dirt. The truck was veering off the highway into the center median. For a second I thought he was going to cross over into oncoming traffic.
Instead he swerved back onto the road. I saw the box of the truck start to wobble and tip. It only took a second, but time seemed to slow down as the truck turned again, trying to correct. Then the top of the truck slanted to the right, balanced on a knife's edge of gravity and momentum. Then it toppled and flipped.
I didn't see the truck go all the way over. There were cars in front of us in the way. But fortunately, traffic was relatively light. I hit the brakes and slowed to about 20 mph, following other cars.
As we inched forward I saw the truck up ahead, on its side. It was by itself. No other vehicles seemed to be involved.
The cars ahead of me slowed even more. Traffic stopped for a moment, then inched forward again. By the time we approached the overturned truck there were already two cars stopped -- one in the center lane beyond the truck, the other pulled up onto the left-hand shoulder. A woman was standing by the side of the truck with a phone to her ear. A man was reaching up to the cab of the truck. The driver's side door was open. The man was trying to help the driver climb up vertically out of the truck.
I thought, briefly, if I should stop too. But we were in a line of traffic that was moving slowly down the right-hand lane. I could try to get over. But what could I do? The driver was trying to get out, having difficulty because he was climbing out the top. But he was struggling like it was difficult, not because he was hurt.
We figured the woman with the phone was already calling in the accident. But B dialed 911 on her phone anyway, just to make sure. She reported the incident, gave the mileage marker and her name and call-back number. Clearly, the woman on the other end of the phone didn't know about the accident, but we thought she would pass it on to the dispatch operator -- who may already know about the accident but at least this would confirm it.
By this time we were past the truck, and traffic was speeding up again. We breathed easier, thinking there were no injuries and we had at least done our duty to call it in. Two minutes later we saw a police van coming the other way, lights flashing. We assumed it was responding to the accident.
We don't know what happened to cause the turnover. Was the driver texting or talking on the phone and just got distracted? Did someone cut him off and force him over onto the shoulder? Did he fall asleep? We'll never know. We're just glad he wasn't hurt -- or if he was, it wasn't bad -- and there didn't seem to be anyone else in the truck, or any other cars involved.
It's dangerous to be out on the road these days. Please be careful over the holidays.