Our hearts go out to a family friend whose son was involved in a fatal crash; accidents make victims of us all.
While I was at work on Tuesday evening, I heard on the radio that there was a fatality on Walnut Grove Road between Farm Road and Humphreys Blvd.. As I’m sure most of us do, I began to catalog where my family was at this time. Being approximately 4:30 p.m., I realized that my wife and two sons would be nowhere near that location. I must admit I felt immediate relief and moved on.
But that afternoon I spoke with my wife and found that a friend of hers had a son involved in the accident. Apparently, the son was at the hospital in serious condition and, at the time, we thought there were two girls with him who were both killed. I later learned that only one of the girls was killed but the other was seriously injured.
As we know the details, it appears that the friend’s son was driving the vehicle which hydroplaned, flipped over and then was struck by other cars. My first thought was remembering the time that I was driving along, not much rain but some, and I hydroplaned on an interstate in Brentwood, Tennessee. I recall that the car began to fishtail and as I corrected once and even twice, the car continued to move out of control as if it were moving on ice. As an engineer, I know that hydroplaning is serious business for a car. Unfortunately, there is very little that a driver can do other than attempt to correct as much as possible, bleed off speed and wait for the vehicle to regain traction. But as an engineer, I also know that the conditions that cause hydroplaning indicate a problem with the road.
With that in mind, I mentioned to my wife that I thought that the accident must have occurred on the new section of Walnut Grove which is mostly bridges. Why is that the case? Well, you need standing water in order to hydroplane and the section of Walnut Grove near the park has the appropriate slope and ditches for drainage on its sides. On the bridges creating the new portion of Walnut Grove, the roadway relies on drains to get rid of the excess water. Depending upon how quickly the water comes down from the sky, it may or may not move quickly off the roadway. In fact, that portion of the road, i.e., Walnut Grove, is basically a big bridge and, unfortunately, by design, a magnet for water to gather.
I heard on the news today, while they were reporting that the teenage driver was driving with a limited license, something that was much more important. It was something that was probably missed by most listeners and definitely missed by the news. What I heard was confirmation of my guess that the accident occurred on the bridge over Humphreys Blvd.. It means that standing water is possible on that bridge despite it being newly constructed. It also means that many more accidents are possible and probable.
Turning to the parent in me, my heart turns flips as I think about what this young man will have to deal with in the future. First, the self guilt of being one of two survivors from the crash, of being the driver, and of the circumstances, especially due to the media, which seem to vilify him. Certainly, this tragedy could be a turning point in his life. As parents, as his community, we owe him a duty to recognize that he is also a victim as well. If we don’t, then we may create a monster. Second, since one child died in the accident more likely than not claims, financial strain, and even, possibly, lawsuits will most certainly follow.
The lawyer in me knows that our society has changed over the years. We have become more litigious. We no longer believe in a true accident or tragedy. Instead, someone has to be at fault. We tend to point the finger of blame and we point it at each other, never ourselves.
Knowing this, I know that there will be no less than a herd of lawyers offering their services to those who were injured in the accident, offering to sue or represent the ones being sued. In the end, they know, that they, as the lawyers, are the only winners.
I simply urge my friends, since we cannot avoid the legal ramifications of these incidents and there is nothing that I can advise you to do (or not to do) in order to avoid this type of tragedy, to remember that there are two sides to every coin and sometimes incidents like this make victims of both sides.
Our hearts go out to all of the families involved and affected by this incident. May God grant them the peace and joy that surpasses all human understanding.