I Can Save My Own Life, "Flipped"

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kevin Auger
  • 389th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron
I had everything in the world going for me. It was a Friday afternoon, I was driving a two-seat convertible roadster, and I was returning home to my wife after my first day of the Basic Qualification Course in the F-15E Strike Eagle. We lived about 3 miles off base, a straight-shot from the front gate through busy shopping areas and traffic lights. This particular Friday, it was raining heavily, and I had resigned myself to a top-up drive back home. 

As I sat at the final stoplight before getting home, with my apartment complex literally in view, I had no idea that I was 6-9 seconds from almost losing it all. 

I was sitting as number two at the stoplight, with a motorcycle in front of me, in the right hand lane of a four lane road. Thankfully, nobody was in the left lane as we started through the intersection in the heavy rain. Crossing the intersection, the road went from rough pavement to brand-new, recently-paved smooth asphalt. As I passed roughly 40 mph (in a 45mph zone), the back end of my Honda S2000 suddenly started to wiggle as I felt the back tires start to hydroplane and spin. 

I'll never claim to be Michael Schumacher, but I've done my fair share of auto cross and track work in various sports cars, and nothing could have prepared me to react quickly enough to what happened next. As the car snapped into a right turn, the back end slid out to the side just as the car impacted the shallow curb and started sliding perfectly sideways along the grass next to the busy street. I had just enough time to realize that all was lost and looked out the left side of the car to see a telephone pole rapidly approaching. I had barely turned my face away into my opposite shoulder when the car impacted the telephone pole on the driver's side, just in front of the steering wheel. 

The next thing I remember was the sound of the engine revving out of control. It was as I tried to take my foot off the pedal and push in the clutch that I realized I was upside down, with an airbag in my face, dust and glass everywhere. I was hanging from the seatbelt, my skull barely resting on the convertible top, saved from death by wearing my seatbelt (and the Honda's rollover bars above the seat). 

Emergency responders arriving at the scene were convinced that whoever was driving must surely be severely injured, possibly dead. It was so horrendous; the cop who showed up took pictures on his cell phone (and later sent them to me). Had I not been wearing my seatbelt, I would have been violently thrown around the inside of the car, and probably snapped my neck or been half-ejected from the car as it flipped. 

Instead I walked out of the hospital later that evening sore, with no other injuries. 

You all read the stories, you all know the rules, and you all know the right thing to do. Just remember that an accident can happen in the blink of an eye, going only 40 mph in a benign environment. Wear your seatbelt. It saved my life, and it could save yours.