I rolled a car when I was 19

I shared the story of my rollover on Robert Scoble's site. He survived a rollover yesterday and one of his readers wondered if any other webloggers had had similar experiences...

I rolled a car when I was 19

My story got Scripting News'd.

Dec 31, 2001: I decided to repost this here. It really should be on my site, in case Robert's site is removed some day.

It was December 18, 1994.

My girlfriend (now wife) was in the car. We were moving from British Columbia to Alberta (a 2 day car ride). It was ONE day after I "took her from the safety of her parents' care". Way to impress the in-laws.

Note that all our most precious personal belongings are in this car. It's loaded. And the roof is loaded too, with a desk and drafting table on a roof rack and a tarp.

We left the motel on the morning of the 2nd day. We were driving in post-blizzard conditions (we knew the roads were bad when we left but we didn't realize how bad they'd get before we saw civilization again).

About 10km before the place we planned to stop for breakfast, the car hit black ice on the highway at about 70-80km/h (that's 45-50mph) and the car spun 180 degrees (ie: after the spin we were facing the opposite direction, but still upright), and then flew off the road into a ditch. The car landed on its roof, and then bounced off the ... oh, 6 feet of snow in the ditch, and came to rest on its tires again. Embedded in the snow.

It was so surreal. The ordeal was longer than 2 seconds because of the initial out-of-control situation and spin, but the roll only took a second or 2 I imagine.

It was the ride of a lifetime, I remember, as it was happening, thinking, "wow this is SO COOL!" I was terrified when the car was spinning but when the car was rolling, I was just enjoying it more or less. Weird.

The car stopped and I noticed I wasn't hurt at all.

I was so freaked out because the first thing that came to mind was the movies where the people run out of the car after the accident and just get far enough away in time before the car blows up! ;-)

I told Cheryl, roll down your window and climb out, FAST! (the doors wouldn't open because we were embedded in the snow)

I did, and fought my way through the snow to the shoulder of the highway. Then I looked back and saw Cheryl still sitting in the car.


I ran back, and she was just sitting there, in shock. I managed to get her window open and she got out, or I pulled her out. I don't remember that part too well, everything was so frantic.

We went to the highway together. The car didn't blow up. :-)

A car that was maybe 500m behind us when it happened (they saw the whole thing) had stopped on the other side of the highway (note that our car was in the ditch on the opposite side of the highway... we were damn lucky there was no oncoming traffic, like the rig that passed me right after I got to the shoulder).

They asked if we were alright, we said yeah. They offered us a ride, me in their car, and Cheryl in another car that stopped, to Valemont, the town 10km away we were trying to reach.

I was so scared. We left all our belongings in that car. Cheryl was now in some stranger's pickup truck.

Well this story is getting long so let me wrap it up. The insurance company said it was not our fault because the roads were so bad. We saw half a dozen cars and trucks/vans in the ditch in the 5 km of road before our accident. I don't know how many there were in that final 10km, I was in shock, was just watching the pickup truck behind us to make sure Cheryl was in sight.

The car had $9000 damage but they wouldn't write it off! We had it fixed good as new, covered by insurance, and noone was seriously hurt. Cheryl's back was sore and so was mine, but pretty minor stuff really.

We were wearing our seat belts too. I know they saved us. That, and the roof rack that must have given the roof a lot more structural integrity. The top of my head always touched the roof of that car when i drove it. The roof only collapsed an inch. if it had totally collapsed like it should have given that the car landed on its roof at high speed, my head would have been smushed. I still have the twisted beams of that roof rack in storage... I figure I owe them my life and loyalty.

I'm glad to hear you're alright Robert. We're lucky people.


Written on October 31, 2001