I was driving our splendid little 1993 Camry back from the station to Berkeley Monday night after my weekly broadcast (2005-08-22, about a quarter to midnight). Eastbound on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, my left rear tire went flat in the YBI tunnel. As usual (at least whenever possible) I had positioned myself midway between wolf-packs, so had almost thirty seconds before being overtaken by the traffic behind. I hit the emergency flashers and got from lane 2 to the right guard rail without any interference other than that from the tire itself, which was clearly a complete tread separation; then, as traffic caught up, I rolled forward slowly to stop at the next call box. It soon became obvious that the usual morons who go 60 – 70 mph on the bridge — which has a 50 mph MAXIMUM (not prima-facie) limit for several very good reasons — were not going to be denied their idiotic habits, emergency lights or no; so rather than try for the call box even by climbing out the passenger side, I put my seat belt back on and reached for my wallet and the AAA number.
These are some photos of our baby in the tow yard after I was clipped from behind, at full speed, by a drunk driver. The Camry and I were thrown forward between 37 and 40 feet on impact. [Account of the crash itself still to come.]
UPDATE: the other driver, Mr R, requested a blood test. His blood alcohol concentration was .11% — that's 37% over the legal limit. The CHP report recommended two counts of felony DUI, but he's been charged with a misdemeanor. Sigh.
Well, heck, that doesn’t look so bad . . . one door even opens:
Saved by the wheelwell: The tire itself had no bounce to contribute, as it’s the one that had gone flat. But after the axle snapped, and the left rear wheel was driven all the way under the chassis, the curved front wall of the wheelwell took the rest of the force, “guiding” the other guy’s car back out to the left rather than plowing further into the driver’s compartment. The left end of the rear passenger seat was pushed to within two inches of the driver’s seat. (The Camry was parked about six inches from the right-hand curb, and was pushed hard into the curb and against the guard-rail; you can see small traces of that impact in the first photo, but the right front tire and wheel, which took most of the force, aren’t visible there.)
But the other guy, who was traveling 60 – 70 mph about two-thirds in lane 4 and one-third in lane 5, ricocheted all the way to lane 1 and crashed into the left guard rail.
Here’s a link to a large detail from the above shot. In this one you can see pretty clearly how it was the wall of the wheelwell that saved the day. If he’d struck a few inches to the left he would have peeled off the whole side of the car (and who knows what body parts with it); of course, a few inches to the right and nothing would have saved either of us (click for full size).
This shot probably gives the best sense of how much car Mr R sheared off (click for full size):
I think it’s safe to say I was lucky. Thank you, little Camry.