Reddit recently had a thread asking about everyone’s “closest call” in life. This is probably mine.
I commuted to work during the summer in high school in a 1970 Chevy Nova. The car, unlike every other nova in existence, was a total basket case. Rusted out, barely ran, interior trashed, etc etc. One of the biggest problems is that the brakes were not 100% great. This caused me to follow abnormally far from cars in front most of the time. It also had lap seatbelts with an optional shoulder belt that i never wore because there was only 1 buckle for either a lap belt or a shoulder belt. I always chose the lap belt.
One day on the way home from work, I was on a highway that led back to my house. The speed limit was about 65 mph and I was following at my regular 5-7 car lengths due to my brakes being stupid in the left lane. I was watching taillights a few cars ahead and noticed people REALLY hammering the brakes, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I was coming up to an intersection and mashed my brakes as hard as i could and a whole lot of not much happened. I glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed a large truck behind me had 100% locked its brakes, was smoking tires, and was going to slide into me.
At that instant, I was close enough to the intersection to dart into the left turn lane that was totally empty of cars, and the truck that was going to hit me crashed into the car in front of me and basically destroyed the rear end of the car. I suspect with the extra room provided by the absence of my car, the impact was not nearly as severe as it could have been. If I was hit, I am pretty sure my face would have been permanently re-arranged due to not having a shoulder belt, or belt tensioners, or airbags.The airbag would have been a cold, hard piece of steel wrapped in cracked plastic that was the nova’s steering wheel.
I don’t know what caused the pileup, it seemed like someone just was late braking for the stop light and caused the pileup, but I took a left turn and found a different route home. I also replaced the entire brake system the following week to ensure that could not happen again.