There are a few more gray hairs on my head today and I have earned every one of them. I went through a harrowing experience and now, as the holidays are fast approaching, I am expressing gratitude that my daughter and I are safe.
I had kept my daughter home from school. She is a medically fragile child with special needs and she had fallen while having a seizure that morning. After she rested and seemed to be feeling better, I decided to take her to the pharmacy to pick up more Children’s Motrin, as I had used the last dose to treat her headache after the fall. I figured I could put her in her stroller, get the Motrin, and be out of the store in a few minutes. We never made it there.
We had just turned out of our development when it happened….my accelerator stuck and my van started speeding down the road. I took my foot off the gas pedal, hit the brake with one foot and then both feet with all of my weight, and tried the emergency brake, but the car would not slow down. As I approached the first intersection, I saw a red light in front of me. I had two options; I could keep going straight through the red light and risk getting T-boned by the traffic from the side or I could take a fast right turn at the red light into the oncoming traffic. I opted for the latter. I turned right, put on my hazard lights, and tried to keep in the shoulder as I sped down the road. I was still pumping my brake and trying to figure out what to do when I decided to pull into a parking lot. This happened around 7:30a.m., so the parking lot was empty. I was driving in circles, not knowing how I was going to get the car to slow down when I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw that my daughter was having another seizure. I panicked. I had to stop the car immediately. I threw the car into Park and shut off the ignition. Everyone who has heard this story has told me that this was the wrong thing to do, that you are supposed to put the car in Neutral and then turn off the engine. Somewhere in the ancient past, I probably learned that when I took my driver’s test. However, in the angst of the moment, I never thought about it. I jumped out to get to my daughter in the back seat. The engine was smoking and I was so afraid the van would catch on fire. I picked up my daughter and somehow got the hood open to let out the smoke. I called for a tow and I called a friend for a ride.
The mechanic could not recreate the problem and I picked up the van the next day. Three blocks away, the acceleration problem happened again. This time, I did put the van in Neutral before turning off the engine. After being towed four times in a week to two different mechanics and the dealership, it was finally determined that the problem was the floor mat getting stuck under the gas pedal at certain speeds. I have thrown out the floor mat, but still get nervous when I drive at higher speeds these days.
This upcoming year, I reflect on what could have happened to us that morning, and I am truly grateful that we were unharmed and that I have a friend who was willing to drop what she was doing that morning to come get us. I am a little grayer, a little more wary on the roads, but a lot more thankful.