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The Saratoga Falcon

My ups and downs as a new driver

I+felt+a+thump+when+stopping+at+the+traffic+light.
Emily Wu
I felt a thump when stopping at the traffic light.

Two months after I turned 16, I proudly passed my behind-the-wheel test. A lot of people are shocked to hear that I, as a sophomore, can already drive myself around, but getting my license earlier than some has had a lot of benefits. For one thing, I’m less of a burden to my parents; I have more freedom to go outside and by December 2025, I can legally drive my friends around.

However, not even a month after getting my license, I was driving down De Anza Boulevard when I experienced my first car accident. At the intersection just before Bank of America and Kumon, I felt a thump reverberate through my body as I slowed down for the red light. My thoughts raced: “What was that? Did a car just hit me?” It was only my fourth or fifth time ever driving alone — I couldn’t possibly have gotten into an accident already, could I? 

Struggling to come to terms with reality, my mind reached one simple conclusion: I had imagined the whole thing. I imagined the jolt. I imagined the sound. Everything was completely a fragment of my vivid imagination. 

But while waiting at the red light, I slowly recollected my thoughts. A memory of my 9th grade Drivers Ed class came back to me: If engaged in an accident, both parties should pull over somewhere safe to exchange insurance information and contacts. Though I was still caught up in the delusion that I hadn’t been hit, I decided to play it safe and pulled over into the parking lot of Bank of America. My heart sank as I saw a minivan turn into the parking lot right behind me. The bump was real.

Drivers Ed’s step two for dealing with accidents: Exchange information with the lady who had hit me. Frightened, I left the car, only to ask the lady to wait for my mom to come so she could talk to her instead. It was incredibly embarrassing in retrospect, but at the time, my mind was in a state of panic. So, we each waited awkwardly in our respective cars for an entire 15 minutes while my mom drove to meet us (it took extra long because she went to the wrong location at first). Once help arrived, everything ran much smoother. We all agreed that I had been tail-ended and I was not at fault. Thankfully, the lady was very nice — she was patient with my panic episode and suggested that she pay for repairs without getting insurance involved. 

Before the accident, I was confident in my driving skills. I passed my permit and behind-the-wheel test with little errors, I don’t drive recklessly and my parents always boosted my ego by telling me I drive “better than my older sister when she first started.” But the small accident with the minivan shattered this confidence. 

When I calmed down later, however, I realized the accident was really not as bad as I at first thought. First off, it wasn’t my fault and didn’t negatively affect my driving record. Moreover, the full extent of the damage was only a one-foot scratch on the bumper of my mom’s car and a couple of scratches and small dents on the other car. 

Accidents happen, and being in one isn’t the end of the world. On the bright side, my mom got to repair her bumper for free, fixing a scratch that she made on the car before I even started driving it! I learned that if something is not my fault, there’s no reason to stress and worry about it. And even if it was my fault, mistakes will always happen and it’s healthier to recognize it as a learning experience. Stressful situations are an opportunity to step up, make sure no one is hurt and show kindness and maturity.

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