Watch Out for the Other Guy
RETIRED CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER 4 JEREMY FRANKHOUSE
Road trips can be dangerous, so I always take the steps I think are necessary to be prepared. I plan ahead, check my route on the map and make sure my vehicle is serviced and ready to go. However, I could never have anticipated what happened to my family one Sunday in the Florida Panhandle. Our new vehicle was totaled and I wound up in the hospital — not because of a crash on the highway, but from an accident in a parking lot! Here’s what happened.
I was stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and my wife and I arranged to spend the weekend in Destin, Florida, with our two daughters. We’d made hotel arrangements for Saturday night and planned to return late Sunday evening. The weather on the way down wasn’t as forecasted (imagine that). Instead, the skies were overcast and the clouds threatened rain.
By the time we got to Destin, it was raining, so we spent the afternoon exploring the town. We hoped the weather would be better Sunday, but no such luck. It started raining in the morning and didn’t look like it was going to clear up anytime soon. We eventually gave up on the weather and decided to head home. We’d been on the road about an hour when we stopped for coffee at what we thought was a gas station. It was actually some sort of gift shop, but since we were already stopped, I thought I’d take the opportunity to check something out in the vehicle owner’s manual before we took off again.
We were about 20 feet off the road and facing the direction of travel. My wife was in the back seat between the two child car seats, trying to keep the girls occupied. I was looking down and reading the manual, so I never saw the Pontiac Firebird coming at us. The 19-year-old behind the wheel was driving his father’s car way too fast for the road conditions. The vehicle hydroplaned and slid off the road and into the parking lot straight for our vehicle. He struck my left-rear bumper so hard it spun my car around twice.
I regained consciousness about four hours later. I’d suffered a minor concussion and had two staples in my head from where I was thrown into the door frame during the crash. My wife was beaten up by the girls’ car seats and had the worst black eye I’d ever seen. She also had a large bruise on her back. Fortunately, the girls weren’t injured, though one ended up on her back in the rear of our vehicle, still strapped into her car seat. I’m not sure how that happened because I’d secured it with the shoulder belt according to the seat’s instructions before we started our trip.
We later called a friend to come get us. After we left the hospital, we stopped by the junkyard where our car was towed to get our stuff. Our new car was destroyed. The rear was crushed, the floor was cracked all the way to the front and the frame was bent.
Although our injuries left us a bit uncomfortable for a while, we eventually recovered. It took us a month of fighting with the insurance company, but we ultimately got our claim paid off and were able to replace our vehicle. Given the circumstances, this whole incident could have been a lot worse.
I still plan my road trips just as I always have in the past. However, I now have child safety seats secured with three-point restraints instead of only a shoulder belt. And no matter how safe I think I’m being, I’m always on the lookout for the other guy.
Did You Know?
Parents, it’s up to you to ensure your children are properly restrained in a car seat that is appropriate for their age, height and weight. Visit the Safe Kids Worldwide website for tips and instructions for properly installing a car seat at http://www.safekids.org/safetytips/field_risks/car-seat?gclid=COCC9ZeFpMcCFVg8gQodwcILaQ.