Sometimes every second matters. This is what just happened in 3 seconds.
On my way home from work today an electronic highway sign warned of a crash up ahead. I wondered how long the delay would be and if I should figure out another route. Going through the possibilities of alternative routes, none of them looked good. Maybe it’s an old announcement, from earlier in the day, and it’s cleared up by now. Traffic is light this time of day, maybe it’s easy enough to get by.
Five minutes later, as I approach the scene, I notice the brake lights coming on and see that the cars are slowing. Up ahead I can see the back of the traffic jam. I take my foot off the gas, check my speed—the car slows to about 50 mph, plenty of time left to slow down before the back of the jam, about a half mile ahead at the bottom of the hill.
Three seconds starts now.
I’m in the middle lane. In the lane to my left, just ahead of me, one car suddenly smashes into the car in front of it—I hear the explosion and I see the front of the car crumple, a burst of steam escapes and the hood flies up. I apply the brakes and instantly my eyes flash on the rearview mirror to see how fast the car behind me is closing, and at the same time I swerve to the right, but stay in my lane, ready to swerve further if I have to. One thousand one.
The hit car careens into a third car in that same left lane, and this launches the third car into my lane where it rams into the car right in front of me, carrying both cars spinning out of my lane and into the lane on my right, broadsiding the car just ahead on my right. I swerve back to my left (but still in my lane) and I’m on the brakes hard. I feel the antilock system chattering through the brake pedal, trying to keep the car out of a skid. As the two propelled cars leave my lane and collide with the car just ahead on my right, the lane in front of me momentarily gives me open space. One thousand two.
Pieces of bumper and broken car parts fill the open lane and there are piles of smashed cars on both sides of me, but I have just enough space to quickly weave around the most threatening pieces of crumpled metal. I slip through to become the sole car to emerge from the pileup that now completely blocks all four lanes. One thousand three.
A few seconds later I coast to a stop at the back of the original traffic jam.
Three harrowing seconds at 50 miles per hour. I still don’t know for sure how I got out of that unscathed. You never know when you’ll be in a situation where every second matters, but I’m going to say, that in addition to a lot of luck, Headspace.com played a part.
Prepare for your own three seconds. Meditate, it could save your life.