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Defensive Driving Lesson Learned

by Steve
(Canoga Park, CA)

This happened to me in early December 2007. I was driving a 2004 Nissan Sentra with automatic transmission. It was 1 AM on a Sunday morning, and I was heading back from Orange County on Interstate 405 in Los Angeles.

The weather had been a bit drizzly, and the roads were slightly slick with water. What was worse is that the section I was driving had only just been repaired and this was the first rain in the area for months. Because of that, the road oil and water combined to make for a very slippery surface.

I was on the freeway interchange, going from the northbound I-405 to the westbound Ventura Freeway, when I hit a slick patch in the left hand lane and slid into the wall. While I was traveling the listed speed for the area, I should have been at a slower one to compensate for the road conditions.

As it was, I had only a foot or so between myself and the wall, which was insufficient space to recover. I hit the retaining wall at just below 30 MPH, bounced off, and drifted right into a median area between the east/west split between of the interchange.

With luck, no one else was involved, and while my car had to be totaled, I was not injured because I had on my seat belt.

The most important lesson I learned as far as defensive driving is concerned is to go slower than the permitted speed when road conditions are less than ideal, and to try to position yourself to have the maximum recovery space in the event of loss of control. And that seat belt can save you a LOT of pain...

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