Crash course

Students learn from mistakes to become better drivers


photo by Kendall Pooley

Senior Kendall Pooley photographs the damage her car sustained in a minor accident within the Sanctuary neighborhood on Dec. 15, 2017. Pooley would be involved in another crash a week later as a passenger in fellow senior Sarah Gallagher’s car.

Bryson Turner, Online Editor

Senior Alyssa Melendez did not know what to think. All she saw was a work van speeding toward her 2014 Chevrolet Sonic in the left turn lane of East Mitchell Hammock Road. The van tried to swerve out of the way, but it could not stop. It hit her car, which lurched forward, colliding with the vehicle in front of her.

“I just completely froze and didn’t know what to do,” Melendez said.

She managed to exit the vehicle to check on others that were involved, but after that, she sank to the ground, still slightly shaken by the events.

“I kind of had an anxiety attack because I have had issues with that in the past,” Melendez said. “I couldn’t really move much, like I was just sitting there kind of freaking out.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 16-19 year-olds are three times more likely to get into a fatal car crash per mile driven than drivers 20-years old and older.

The impact aggravated a trio of wounds she sustained in another crash a year and a half prior: a sprained left knee, a cyst in her posterior cruciate ligament, and a herniated disk. She described the pain as “10 times worse,” and still has 4-5 months left of physical therapy to alleviate it.

According to the City of Oviedo, 30 percent of crashes are rear end collisions, like Melendez. Junior Brooke Boddiford can relate, as she was also rear-ended in front of Oviedo Presbyterian Church on Lockwood Boulevard.

“There was a cop on the other side, so people were stopping in front of me to look at it,” Boddiford said.

However, the car behind Boddiford did not follow her example, rear-ending her at 40-45 miles per hour.

Boddiford emerged from the wreck unharmed, but the same could not be said for her 2012 Ford Fusion.

“The whole [back] end of the car was smashed in and the [rear] windshield was completely cracked,” Boddiford said.

Though her car was totaled, the insurance money was enough to buy a new car.

One place on the road that is always a risk for drivers is at large intersections, Oviedo has four.

According to the City of Oviedo data, out of the 102 reported crashes at intersections, 27 of them occurred at the intersection of County Road 419 and Lockwood Boulevard.* This was where senior Sarah Gallagher found herself on Dec. 22.

Gallagher and her friend, senior Kendall Pooley, were pulling out of the left turn lane when a truck pulled out in front of them. Not having the time to react, the two vehicles met, front to side.

Gallagher was unharmed by the crash, but Pooley, who was involved in a minor crash of her own just two weeks prior, had to go to the Oviedo Medical Center for a bruised rib.

Gallagher’s 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser was damaged beyond repair, and due to Gallagher’s hesitance to drive after, she has not had her own car since.

“Now I’m just shaky at driving because I don’t know what people are going to do,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher and Pooley’s crash resulted in injury to at least one passenger, but these types of crashes are more than an exception than the norm. According to the City of Oviedo, 93 percent of crashes result in just property damage,* such as the case of sophomore Micheal Maxwell.

“I went to pull in and there was an open spot between two parked cars,” Maxwell said. “My mom was in the car with me and she yelled to brake, and I got really scared, so I pushed the gas instead of the brake and I just bumped the car next to me.”

Maxwell was a fairly new driver of a 2001 Honda Odyssey, so the prospect of being involved in any form of crash alarmed him.

“I was worried about money, people getting and mad at me, and having to go to court and miss school,” Maxwell said.

Luckily for Maxwell the woman whose car he hit was very understanding. She was simply glad he did the right thing, called the authorities, and settled the matter responsibly.
“[She] actually sent us a Christmas card, thanking us that we the right thing,” Maxwell said.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 22 percent of crashes that involved 15-17 year-olds, and 26 percent that involved 18-20 year-olds in 2016 resulted in injuries.

“It just taught me that you can’t rely on other people; to be always aware of their surroundings,” Gallagher said.

One of the biggest takeaways these young drivers have taken with these run ins are that one not only has to look after what oneself is doing, but monitor the condition of their fellow motorists as well.

“Everyone’s a bad driver,” Pooley said. “If you’re going to drive, make sure you’re paying attention and not doing dumb things.”

Despite still having a fear of getting hit again, Melendez came away from her crash with an extremely important discovery about life on the road.

“You have to be responsible, not only for yourself, but [for] other drivers around you,” Melendez said. “You should always take it seriously.”

*Statistics from data taken between Oct. 1, 2016 and Sept. 30, 2017 by the City of Oviedo.