In a conversation with a law enforcement friend years ago, I learned that he was once dispatched to an unusual automobile accident. When he arrived, he noticed several injured people still in their cars and one man stretched out on the pavement.

The man’s shirt was bloody, so my friend assumed that he’d been ejected from one of the cars. When asked which car he’d been in, the man said, “I wasn’t in a car, but I witnessed everything. I was climbing out of that manhole where those orange cones used to be.”

Now retired, my friend said that he and his wife recently dodged orange cones and pouring rain on their way to a restaurant. No sooner than he commented to her that the rain might delay their plans, they were hit from behind. He pulled into a parking lot to check on the other driver. She told him that she too had been hit in the rear and that her car had been knocked into his. He said that he noticed the third car’s driver approaching them from a Toyota. “She wasn’t smiling, and she was as social as an animal buried in a fire ant mound.” After mumbling something, she headed back to her car. He stated that perhaps it was his hunger pains, or maybe it was his desire to be helpful, but he suddenly wanted to give the Toyota driver some advice.

He must’ve thought he’d conceived the Dead Sea Scrolls of great ideas when he asked her if she had a friend in the car repair business. She looked surprised and asked him what he was talking about. He told her that in the state of Georgia, drivers are required to notify the authorities if their vehicle accident involves personal injury, death, or property damage exceeding $500. He admitted that he wasn’t an automobile damage appraiser, but he figured that her car could be repaired for less than $500. “After all, he said, “Her front-end damage was the only damage on all three cars.”

He mentioned that if they canceled the police and if she personally paid for her car damages, she might avoid a traffic citation. Then he suggested that she might also avoid a possible increase in her insurance premium.

He told me that her eyes immediately brimmed with fire and her voice volume increased. He indicated that he was flabbergasted by her comment when she retorted, “I’m not at fault.” He knew it wasn’t April Fool’s Day and he hadn’t seen signs of “Candid Camera.”

The police officer arrived and started his investigation. My friend expected him to grab his citation book, but the rain had gotten so intense that rain gear was as useless as an umbrella in a hurricane. He said that the police officer exited his car when necessary.

After investigating thousands of traffic accidents, the Toyota driver’s words made as much sense to my friend as what he remembered being told once by another accident driver. “I was pulling onto an unfamiliar road like my daddy taught me, he is with God now, when an ugly car that I didn’t see hit me and I didn’t even know it.”

I preached to my family my entire police career that they might receive a traffic citation by reporting a traffic accident. But that was always the best protection against an unscrupulous claim.

I guess my friend was teeter-tottering between wanting to be Mr. Nice Guy and being Mr. Right Guy. I assume that he wanted the Toyota driver to see him as a caring person when he foolishly suggested canceling the police. If the first two drivers had later learned that either one was injured, the Toyota driver could have claimed that the accident never happened.

An illegal tactic that I remember from my early career recently occurred in Atlanta, and that tactic appears to be the new beginning of old crimes. Thugs used stolen cars to intentionally bump into the rear of other cars. When the first car driver got out to confront the second car driver, another thug slithered into the first car and stole it.

After an accident, being intelligent and doing things smart is as easy as first dialing 911. No one wants to be involved in a traffic accident and no one wants to receive a traffic citation. Following an accident, however, it’s better to mimic drivers who do the legal and smart thing, rather than mimic drivers who wished that they had.

Charlie Sewell is a retired Powder Springs police chief who lives in Cherokee County. His book “I’d Rather You Call Me Charlie: Reminiscences Filled With Twists of Devilment, Devotion and A Little Danger Here and There” is available on Amazon. Email him at retiredchiefsewell@gmail.com.

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