Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Accident

Last night as I was driving home from work on 395, there was an accident a few cars in front of me. An SUV came to a sudden stop and the four door sedan following did not see it at all. The sedan slammed into the back of the SUV and crumpled. Amazingly, the third car back stopped in time and it ended up only being a two car accident. I worked my way by, pulled to the shoulder and called 911. I reported the accident and said that I did not know if anyone was injured because I was still in my own car.

After getting off of the phone, I got out and worked my way back to the accident. In addition to me, the person in the third car stopped and she was just getting out of her car. I did not see anyone getting out of either the SUV or the sedan. The road was littered with pieces of plastic and glass, fluids were spilling everywhere, the horn was continuously blaring on the car and I could see that the airbags had deployed.

Thankfully, when I got to the car, the person driving was both conscious and seemed generally ok. She stayed in her car, but put the window down and was talking. The person driving the SUV got out and I could see that he was generally ok, as well. So, we just began the wait for the emergency equipment to arrive.

After it did, and after talking with the appropriate people, one of the firemen helped me cross back across the lanes of traffic and get back to my car. I was amazed that when we stepped out from behind an ambulance, a car was approaching at about 30 miles per hour - passing two fire trucks, a police car, an ambulance, a fire chief's truck and lots of working emergency personnel. The fireman shook his head and yelled for the driver to slow down. When I made it back to my car, I had a hard time merging back into traffic because nobody would let me out!

Thinking back on the whole situation, I am amazed by the lack of concern, or care, or involvement, shown by most everyone. I was surprised that nobody else stopped, or even yelled out their window to see if anybody needed help. There was a fair amount of time (probably 10 minutes) before the emergency equipment arrived. What I saw was people that ran as close to us as possible before changing lanes, people who slowed as little as possible (despite the fact that they were driving over broken pieces of the car), people who clearly wanted to look, but didn't want to see.

My question is why? I've read the old psychological studies about how few people respond to calls for help. I've seen the Dateline specials along the same line. I also understand that at some point you see that enough people have stopped and that the best thing you can do is get out of the way. And, of course, I completely understand why you wouldn't stop once emergency personnel arrive. What I don't get is those people in the first few seconds, or even the first few minutes.

What I don't get is why I had the same thoughts. See, though I didn't mention it above, after getting off of the phone with 911, I spent a second or two in my car thinking about just driving off instead of immediately getting out to see if I could help. What was the hesitation? Why?

Do we really try that hard to avoid getting involved when we see strangers in need? Are we thinking about what getting involved will mean to us (getting home later, potentially being in an uncomfortable situation, having to deal with the emergency personnel)? I know I have addressed this topic before in one of my earliest posts, and I do not want to repeat all of that. But the thought kept going through my head - Are we as a group becoming the priest and the Levite who ignored the man who was robbed and beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? Luke 10:25-37

There are many pitfalls in our way in this world. Let's try to help each other out. Even if it isn't a God thing for you (I hope it is, or that it can become one), think of it like those commercials where seeing someone doing something good inspires someone else to do something good, and so on, and so on, and so on. And, on a personal level, I am hopeful that if I can be better about this, that hesitation will go away. That with time, I will not even have to pause over the question of whether to do the right thing or the easy thing.

No comments: