On impact

A week and a half ago while I was driving home from an appointment, I was involved in a collision with an SUV. No one was hurt. The damage to the passenger side of the Subaru did not look terrible. I was able to drive the car home. I opened a claim with ICBC (the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, our public motor vehicle insurer). Armed with a claim number, I drove the car to the body shop down the hill. I figured all would be set right soon.

A couple of days later, I got another call from ICBC. There was more damage to the car than it was officially worth, so they declared it totalled. I did not argue, since what had seemed to be surface damage actually included frame damage as well. Once the frame of a vehicle is bent, it will never be right again. As well, the car is, or was, a 2002 model. As invaluable as the car was to us and despite fairly low mileage, it had little market value.

If you're going to crash your car, do it when it's still worth fixing.

For the nonce, we are car-free. Neither of us commutes by car. Non-driver Sweetie works two days a week a short bus ride from the house. I work out of my home office. She has a monthly transit pass because she rides frequently in addition to her commute. I use transit less but still quite a lot, especially to go into Vancouver. Our main use for a private vehicle was to go shopping on Saturday, which might involve stops at any of a pet store, a farmers market, our co-op for groceries, a seafood shop, and an Italian deli. We would also occasionally use the car at other times, including to go into Vancouver when there was a compelling reason to do so (dressed fancy, coming home very late, etc.). And once in a while, we would take a road trip.

Being without a car had an impact on last weekend, as expected. On Saturday morning I made a trip to the final Trout Lake Farmers Market of the season. In the afternoon I made a very long trip to get cat food (a brand not available in most stores) and to make one other stop. It was not the most efficient trip—bus-SkyTrain-bus to get to the pet store; bus-bus to get to the next stop; and finally bus-SkyTrain-bus to get home—but connections were pretty good, and it took less time than I expected. Each trip cost me two one-zone (because weekend) fares ($2.10 with Compass card), so C$4.20 for each round trip. On Sunday I went to the co-op and the fish market. That trip also cost C$4.20.

I'm glad to know that it's possible for me to do all the things I need to do on transit, given plenty of time and the ability (and willingness) to haul heavy loads. It is unlikely to remain practical. In two weeks the winter farmers market will be at Nat Bailey Stadium—accessible by transit, but a long ride plus walk (there is also a Sunday winter market at Hastings Park, but many of the vendors I need aren't there). The farmers market trip would be fine in good weather, but add rain or cold or both and it's a different story. And even though I can carry a lot of weight, I have only two shoulders for bags, and taking more than two bags on transit is difficult anyway.

As well, even though I'm a tough old broad and pretty strong, I'm getting neither younger nor stronger. I was proud of myself for doing all the hauling this past weekend, but my body was pretty worn out later, and my left knee threatened to go on strike a few times while I was out walking.

And here's the kicker: if I somehow were to get a gig, I would need a car to get to it. Or a much smaller guitar amp.

Joining a car co-op would have been our first choice. It's expensive to buy, maintain, and insure a vehicle, especially for the little that we use one. Sadly, ICBC ruled that I was at fault in the collision. I can't approach the co-op unless I have two years free of at-fault claims. I have to earn my way back into the good graces of the driving world.

That leaves us with three options: remain car free, buy a used car, or buy a new car. For all the reasons above, the first option is good only for the short term. That leaves buying a new or used vehicle, with both require money up front and ongoing costs.

If we buy a new car, at least it can now be an electric vehicle (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), or hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). Our all-wheel-drive Subaru was awesome on curves but was not particularly fuel efficient, even for highway driving. EVs, PHEVs, and HEVs available in Canada are all expensive, but if we're going to buy new, it has to be tomorrow's car, not yesterday's. Either that or we buy an older car and then have to go through the same exercise in a few years.

Meanwhile, even though using transit takes extra time and effort, I'm enjoying my liberation from driving. I get to read or check my phone or even observe my surroundings while being taken to my destination. I do more walking by covering distances on foot that are too short to bother waiting for a bus (I'd rather move than wait). I realize that I am fortunate in not having to use transit during peak periods. I have done so in the past, and I know that rush hour trains and buses are only more crowded now than they were then.

I also appreciate not having to drive because at this point I'm still feeling the effects of trauma. That surprised me, but shouldn't have. Even though the collision was minor (except to the vehicles), the scenario plays itself over and over in my head. I see and feel the other car closing in on me, me trying to get out of its way, and the bump of the hit. My brain wants to undo what happened. But that's not how time works. We live with our mistakes until we can let them go.

So I'm feeling chastised and wobbly. I get to deal with both trauma effect and shame! Being a conscientious and careful driver is something I was proud of. I will overcome this. Whenever I get back in the saddle, I will be even more conscientious and careful. But I'm not there yet. So I shall try to enjoy my car holiday.


MgS said...

On any car over a decade old, chances are that the cost of repairs will exceed the value of the vehicle after a collision. (at least from an insurance perspective).

As for repairing a car that has had damage to the floor/subframe components, modern repair shops can straighten a bent floor with astonishing accuracy. I had my Civic take a significant hit shortly after I bought it, and after the body shop finished repairing it, the car was just fine (no funny pull, handled just right, etc). So, the old tale about "it'll never be right" isn't entirely true nowadays.

The trauma of being in an accident is always something that echoes for us - I still remember the collision with the Civic as if it were yesterday, and that was 26 years ago now. Whether the accident is your fault or not doesn't seem to matter.

Given the enforced holiday, why not plan on renting a car on weekends for a while, and try a bunch of different models to see what you like?

holly said...

Ugh, I'm sorry! Car accidents suuuuck! Know what you mean about being shaken up afterwards. If it helps, I read somewhere that people get in car accidents every 19 years on average--so even the best drivers will probably be in several in our lifetimes! (I was just in one a couple of months ago myself.) Anyway, sending warmth and good vibes your way :)