It happened. My nightmare. My Smart car, Maxwell, was hit.
On my way home from work on Wednesday, January 13th, I was in a line of cars waiting for a red light (I was 5th or 6th in line) when I looked into my rearview mirror and saw a car coming up behind me. I could see the top of the driver's head, which told me he was texting!
I watched in horror and realized he wasn't looking up to check the road. 'Crap,'
I thought. 'He's not going to stop.'
(Actually, it wasn't 'crap
', but this is a family-friendly blog...)
I took a deep breath, and tried not to seize up for the impact. He was going about 35 MPH when he hit me square in the rear. Then
he looked up. The collision pushed me forwards about two feet and I rammed into the pickup truck that was stopped in front of me. HARD.
I sat there for a moment. I didn't feel any pain, no whiplash, no bumps or bruises. 'No, no, no, this didn't happen... I don't want to get out and see what he did to my car...'
Shaking, I backed out of traffic and pulled over to the side, out of the lane of cars. The 1996 Jetta that hit me had already pulled over and I parallel parked behind him and immediately snapped a camera-phone picture of his car, making sure to get a clear shot of the license plate. The pickup truck pulled over and parked ahead of the Jetta.
Deep breath. I got out of the car and walked to the rear. The first thing I noticed was the rear bumper panel was exactly where it should be. I could see the crease where it had folded in upon impact and then popped back in place. The plastic cap over the tow-hole was broken off, and the plastic around the tow hole was gouged, and slightly cracked. My exhaust pipe looked like it was bent down, and the black side bumpers were creased as well.
The driver of the Jetta was apologizing. The pickup driver came back to see if we were okay. He looked at my car, then at me. "Whoa. Are you all right?"
"I'm okay. Are you all right?"
He looked at my car again and kind of chuckled. "Um, yeah. I'm fine. So's my truck. Are you sure you're okay? Totally
that guy's fault." He went to talk to the Jetta guy.
(Judge me by my size, do you?)
I walked around to the front of Max, while the Jetta driver was exchanging info with the truck driver. My front license plate was embedded into the bumper panel and the license plate frame was shattered. The black plastic grate beneath the bumper panel was creased, much like the rear bumper had been. However, all of the bumper panels appeared to be aligned right. I was stunned by the lack of major damage, especially considering the force of the impacts. The front end was damaged more than the rear, but it looked largely cosmetic.
I walked all the way around Max. The doors looked straight. None of the side body panels appeared to be displaced. The rear hatch opened and closed normally. I couldn't believe it.
After writing down the Jetta driver's name, phone number and insurance information, I got back in my car. The police weren't called -- in LA they suggest that if there are no injuries and all parties have exchanged insurance info, you don't have to call the police unless there's a dispute. The Jetta driver already admitted his fault to both me and the truck driver in between multiple apologies and was very cooperative, so we didn't call the police. Besides, when I phoned in the claim to my insurance agent, I would give a recorded statement then, so there really was no point.
Max hesitated just a moment when I turned the key and my heart skipped a beat. But then he started like always. No knocks. No weird grinding noises. I carefully put him in first gear and pulled back into traffic. The front end wanted to pull slightly to the right, but not sharply. Other than that, it felt normal.
I drove home on surface streets like a myopic old lady wearing her husband's bifocals. The first time I had to use the brakes, they kind of went 'thug-thug-thug' as if there was a flat spot on the disc somewhere, but since I had been braking when Jetta guy hit me, they probably had gotten torqued. But if I went easy on them, it stopped.
I'm still waiting for the estimate from the body shop my dealership sent me to, and the dealership wants to do some testing as well. They said something about having to check the airbags -- they didn't deploy, and frankly I'm sure they didn't need to because the seat belt did its job. I spoke to the body shop today and they assured me that Max was indeed repairable, and when I got him back he would be every bit as perfect as he was before the accident. Then they gave me a "cautious" estimate of $1500, including labor. The Jetta guy's insurance company will be overjoyed.
I'm completely impressed about the safety features of Smart. Even more so than I was before. The rear bumper body panel behaved exactly as described... it folded inwards and dampened the impact, and then popped back into place. The super-duper body frame felt
like it was holding me in a strong cradle when the Jetta hit me. The front bumper panel took the impact of the pickup's bumper and squished inwards, effectively slowing the hit so I wasn't slammed around inside the car.
So I'm driving around LA in the insurance rental PT Cruiser (I could park Max in the back seat for Pete's sake). I figured this would be a good time to do a CostCo run and pick up a side of beef or a piano or something.
But I'll tell you all right now... as long as Smart Cars are available in America, I will own one.