Have you ever thought to yourself, what would be my last profound thought if I were to suddenly die? No, me neither. But today I found out what the final 7 seconds of my thought life would be like as that was about the amount of time from when I first heard both the horn and screeching brakes of an enormous red 18-wheeler bearing down on me hard in my little tiny Veloster Turbo which was sitting completely stopped on the 405 between Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks. I knew of no safety system in the world that could save me from the impact of a truck moving that fast. It turns out that my active safety system was coming in the form of a red Toyota Prius. Yes, an ordinary Toyota Prius saved my life.
The truck driver didn’t see traffic had totally stopped and once I heard his brakes screeching I saw I had nowhere to go to get out of his way. First I flipped around to check the back seat because I couldn’t remember if my dog Roxy was back there (she was not) then as the horn and the screeching grew louder I looked in my rear view mirror praying somehow he was not going to hit me. I am sure he had only managed to slow to 55 at best so I put on my parking brake and stood on my brake pedal hoping that would keep my car from killing someone else in front of med. I don’t think it would have helped. So instead God, the Lord, Allah, my Higher Power delivered a Toyota Prius driver in the lane next to me with lightning fast reflexes.
Then I closed my eyes and my final thought was, “Well this will probably feel interesting.” But I kept waiting and nothing hit me. Or was it so bad that I had been killed instantly, sent to the next life in my Veloster with the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” still playing on the JL Audio stereo? That wasn’t it, obviously.
In a haze, I got out and saw that thanks to the miraculous reflexes of the Toyota Prius owner who was approaching in the fast lane next to me was able to divert himself and the traffic behind him out of that lane so the truck driver could use it to skid past me into the center soft shoulder. I got out looking at the truck driver’s passenger door if that gives you a sense of where he ended up miraculously not even denting a car. More importantly, I had not been turned into the cartoon accordion pancake I kept seeing in my mind. Nearly hyperventilating, I approached the driver of the Prius and gave him a hug because I had no idea what to say. He told me I was fine and I never even learned his name. So to me, he is just “red Toyota Prius guy.”
As I said earlier, I closed my eyes when I was sure I was going to get hit. I did not learn the secrets of the universe in those moments or see a light, all I know is that truck would have maybe been stopped by the time it hit my radiator. But that did not happen, although for the next 20 miles I was in the slow lane going 45.
While traffic was stopped, people stood outside their cars and talked about what happened. Some talked to me, I think. But once traffic eased everyone just jumped back in their cars and continued down the road. I wish I could have thanked the driver of the truck and the Prius but I was too busy re-swallowing my internal organs that took up residence in my throat. All I will say is, in an accident the bigger, heavier thing will always win. That is, unless you have a Guardian Toyota Prius watching over you.
This is a true story of an event that happened to James Hamel while driving our JL Audio Project Car. All similarity to people living and living are intentional.