One night I responded to a crash and noticed a white car with major damage to its left rear area. At first glance I could tell it had been broadsided. The other vehicle had damage to its front end, with most of it on the right front area. I also could tell the white car had spun around from the impact.
The driver of the white car was being loaded into the ambulance and she was my priority because I wanted to speak to her before she left for the hospital.
I jumped into the ambulance with the two paramedics and the EMT.
The first thing I noticed was how wide open her eyes were as they darted side to side. She was about 30 years old with blonde hair. She was strapped down to the backboard with a cervical collar around her neck.
She was being asked questions from all different directions and she seemed overwhelmed by everything. There was something in her eyes that made me notice her more, though. They were wide with fear. I stood there as the paramedics asked her numerous medical questions, but I only remember two of them.
“Are you pregnant?” asked one of paramedics.
“How far along are you?”
Now I knew why she looked the way she did, and I didn’t blame her. I learned she wasn’t from the area and she was trying to get back to her hotel when the collision occurred.
She was alone and two hours from home. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with by himself or herself. When it was my turn, I started asking her questions about the collision.
She told me she had been in one of the right lanes when she started to move over to get into the left-turn lane. She wanted to turn left at the light because her hotel was at the northeast corner of the intersection.
She was struck as she changed lanes.
Based on the damage to both vehicles, I could tell she had tried to cut perpendicular across the eastbound lanes from the far right to get to the far left when she was broadsided. Not a safe thing to do on any street.
During the interview, I felt bad for her because I could tell she was worried about the baby. When I was done I handed her a card with my name and the report number written on it. I then told her I had to leave.
Just as I was about to get out of the ambulance she said, “Pray for me.”
What she said was powerful, and there was something about how she said it that stuck with me. It was as if a rope had been thrown around me to prevent me from leaving the ambulance when she said it.
Without hesitation I said, “I already am.”
I left and was hopeful nothing would happen to the baby.
A few days later I found out the baby had died.
Less than a week later, the woman’s husband called the follow-up traffic investigator to tell him what happened. On the night of the collision, the baby still had a heartbeat when his wife left the hospital with instructions to follow up with her doctor.
It was a holiday weekend, so she couldn’t see her doctor until Tuesday.
It was supposed to be a routine checkup, but that all changed when her doctor couldn’t detect a heartbeat.
She called her husband, who then called the police department. He was crying when he told the investigator what happened.
I felt bad because the woman was at fault for the collision and she would probably blame herself for the rest of her life. She could have driven 200 yards to the next traffic signal and turned into the hotel parking lot. This never would have happened if she had done that.
Instead, she tried to cut across traffic, which was coming up from behind her at about 40 miles per hour as the cars approached a green light.
If she could only have those five seconds back.
I can still see her face as she said those words, which hit me like thunder and lightening in a Midwest summer storm. The only difference was this storm would haunt her for the rest of her life.
Editor’s Note: John Roman is a traffic officer for an Orange County police agency who writes a blog, Badge 415 (badge415.wordpress.com/). His posts focus on the human side of police work and safety tips. Roman, a cop for 20 years, has handled more than 5,000 accidents as a collision investigator. behindthebadgeoc.com will share some of his columns.