On Thursday, while stopped with my left turn blinker on to turn into a business complex in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, a young man of 23 hit my girlfriend’s 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid from behind at full speed. It’s impossible to estimate how fast he was going, but I would guess just a little under 40 miles per hour. Since I was clearly visible and he didn’t slow, I suspect a cell phone was involved.

The blow was terrific. I felt it most in the small of my back.

The seat mechanism broke and I found myself flat on my back, out of reach of the steering wheel and brake pedal as the car idled slowly forward. I had turned the front wheels slightly to the left in anticipation of the turn, and the Honda moved into opposing traffic, which was slowing because of the accident.

I came close to hitting another car, but managed to grab and turn the wheel and use it to pull myself forward enough to reach the brake pedal and stop the car.

The driver of the other car ran up, already on the phone, and asked if I was all right. “Mostly,” I said. Heather, who had witnessed the accident, was right behind him.

I was shaken up enough to lie there until the police arrived. They asked if I needed and ambulance and Heather insisted they send one.

2014-04-14-Last-Glimpse-at-the-Venerable-Civic-002-800x449 (1)

Just before the paramedics arrived I climbed, with a little assistance, out of the car. I followed the paramedics to their bus, where they took my vital signs, did some simple neurological tests, and took a short medical history. They didn’t insist on taking me to the emergency room, so I didn’t insist on going.

Considering the force of the collision, I was fortunate beyond belief to have been functional, not to mention (apparently) not badly hurt. My torso was stiff and remained so for twenty-four hours. I had a big bruise on my upper left arm where, Heather and I believe, it collided with the driver’s side rear armrest. On my wrist a half dollar-sized flap of skin had been torn loose by the seat belt as I slid backwards after the seat broke.

2014-04-14, Last Glimpse at the Venerable Civic  014

The rear door on the passenger side will no longer open.

I took a Tylenol right away and Heather gave me half of a Tylenol-3 that night just before I went to bed. I anticipated needing the other half the next morning, but took only the Advil. After that, I needed no more pain medication. So far, so well.

Heather’s Honda was a total loss. It was demolished all the way to the rear window and was declared totaled yesterday by Heather’s insurance company.

The last few days has been a flurry of phone conversations with insurance agents and visits to car dealers as we try to find a vehicle to replace the Civic. We’re getting around in a rented Ford Focus, which has convinced Heather that’s not the car for her.

Yesterday we visited the tow company to retrieve personal items from the Civic. We were unable to get into the trunk because of the damage (there’s no pass-through from the back seat because of the placement of the hybrid batteries), so any of the tools, walking sticks, and laundry supplies that were in there will be mailed to us. We said a tearful goodbye (we both really loved that car!) and I removed the chrome-plated Hybrid sign so Heather could keep it as a souvenir.

Hybrid Logo

Heather isn’t yet sure what she will do to replace the car. Three options are on the table: Lease, buy new, buy used. She’s been researching and we’ve been stopping to look at new and used models. I think Friday will be decision day.

I know the accident wasn’t my fault, but I’m sad I was the one who was driving.


  1. Suzan
    Apr 16, 2014

    Two years ago we were coming home one afternoon from a museum visit.

    We were in our 2005 and a half VW Jetta, one that we got new at a good price and that had all the bells and whistles.

    Living in Dallas and having used it to commute to work it had some 75K miles on it but we had an extended warranty.

    We were tail ended by a pick-up truck driven by an idiot with a cell phone. He too didn’t slow down or lose his call.

    He drove us into the car in front of us. Totaled our car.

    Our insurance company was very good and we got better than Blue Book.

    We couldn’t afford new, we didn’t want payments and besides most of the econo boxes, even with payments aren’t that appealing, especially after the Jetta.

    When Tina went looking at used cars I suggested Mercedes. My logic being their reputation for longevity, safety as well as good ergonomics and comfort.

    We got a 2005 CLK 320. The insurance paid for the car, we had to pay tax. We then put about 800 into servicing it with a Mercedes expert and had a Mercedes of roughly the same mileage and vintage as our Jetta. Without payments.

    Volvos are another car with a reputation of longevity but 2000-2004 seem to have some electrical issues with head lights and tail lights. Minor but annoying. Great cars we have a V70 wagon we use for doing our swap meet business.

  2. Dainna
    Apr 16, 2014

    It is always sad to lose a beloved car.

    But I think that Honda Civic is an engineering marvel in SO many ways –
    the most important being that it was able to absorb the impact in such a way as to prevent much more serious injuries to you.

    Glad to know you are mostly OK!

  3. Dallas
    Apr 16, 2014

    Thanks, you two.

    The Hybrid was indeed a marvel of engineering, which is no doubt part of the reason I’m mostly okay.

    The 2014 Accord is quite impressive. They’ve redesigned the hybrid drive and its gets 50 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway. That’s pretty much true to life so far as I’ve been able to tell from drivers’ reviews.

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