Teen driving: The Agony

I received a very distraught phone call from Our Daughter on a recent evening.  She just hit another car.  She was unhurt, for which we are most thankful, and she wasn’t too far, so I got to her in short order.  She dissolved into tears as I put my arms around her.

Sounds like a water bottle fell onto the floor by her feet while she was driving on a one-block-long residential street.  When she reached down to get it, she plowed our trusty van into a parked car (a brand new one that still had the dealer plates).  Damage to both vehicles was extensive – no time to hit the brakes before impact.  When I arrived, one of our van’s front wheels was at a 45-degree angle while the other was straight ahead.  Not a good sign.  The van’s rear end was still partly out in the street; moving it closer to the curb – with the front wheels turning independently of one another – required a fair amount of force and some painful grinding.  Can you say, “Tie rod ends?”  Now say, “Oooohh – those are expensive!”

We left a note on the other car, took some pictures, and headed home.
In the interests of full disclosure, I told Our Daughter about the time I was going 60 mph on the freeway when a water bottle rolled under the pedals of my car.  I reached to get it, glancing down briefly to see where it was.  That’s all the time it took to drift over and break the mirror off a car in the next lane.  The impact also punched a hole in my passenger-side mirror.  That was the only damage, but it could have been so much worse.  My heart didn’t stop pounding for a couple of days.  At 60 mph, a vehicle is moving 88 feet every second.  It’s almost impossible to comprehend how quickly things happen at that speed until something happens at that speed.
Our van is 20 years old, and has lived up to Toyota’s best reputation.  I put four new tires on it in September, and just spent a couple hundred bucks replacing the stop light switch.  Ugh.  We’re inquiring of local body shops and really hoping it can be repaired.  Or maybe we can rent out the house and live in the van.  I’m considering a lot of options at this point.
Wasn’t looking forward to hearing from the owner of the other car, but she was as sweet as could be.  Her first concern was that Our Daughter was not hurt.  Aside from the fact that no one was injured, her kindness, empathy, and understanding have been the best thing about this incident so far.
Would you carry collision insurance on cars that are 20 years old?  If not, thank you.  If you would, we’d rather not hear about it.  Our rationale, of course, is that we would have paid more in premiums than the book value of the cars.  True ‘dat.  But the dark side of the argument is that those cars have actual value to us (though maybe not to anyone else) because they are reliable and run well.  Now the cost of repair or replacement is borne by us.  Can you say, “Thank you, insurance industry?”
Replacing a car is not something we were considering at this point.  While we are quickly gaining a new respect for households that have chosen to operate with just one car, the outcome of this “crash course” remains uncertain for us.  My better angels (including Susan) remind me that this is one more in a long string of opportunities to see God provide for our family.  “Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!”


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