You're Gonna Drive Your Kids around on Those Tires?
I'm in the middle of the five eastbound lanes of the 8 (we live in SoCal, where the freeways have definite articles), doing about 75 and starting to think about moving over to the right in preparation for my upcoming exit. I check my right side-view mirror, then do an over-the-shoulder head-check to make sure there's nothing in my blind spot. Textbook, Driver's Ed circa 1983.
I can't see anything coming up on my right, and I click the turn indicator on. As I do, I become aware of something gaining on me to my left. It's a noise.
The unmistakable sound of tires screeching grows louder on the left, and finally its source becomes visible, first in my side-view mirror, and then through the window. It's a sleek black Beemer, going fast enough that it's about to pass me. Sideways.
I move over one lane to the right as quickly as I can, careful not to get all squirrelly with panic. I'm sure that the Beemer is going to launch off of the asphalt and roll like a kicked-can, but it doesn't. The last I see of the mangled car is its taillights as it slams against the median barrier.
My wife, in the seat next to me, gasps. She's a gasper.
"It's all right," I say, in an unconvincing staccato. Probably 2 seconds have passed since I first heard the tires screech.
But now, out of the corner of my eye, I see a white smear hurtling towards us. It comes into focus in my rear-view mirror: an SUV in mid-spin. I'm also aware of a red vehicle pinballing back and forth behind that one. Like the Beemer, the white SUV seems to be gaining on us, even though it's going backwards. I accelerate for all my little minivan is worth and move over the two more lanes to the shoulder.
"It's all right. It's all right," I keep saying.
The hurtling cars settle behind us and grow distant.
I merge back into the lane just in time to make my exit. There's no reason to stop. There are fifty cars stuck behind the carnage now, and I'm sure half of the drivers have already reported the accident. I don't know what I would tell the cops if they asked me anything anyway, aside from describing the fragmented automotive hockey game I had witnessed just a couple feet away from me.
"Hey kiddos?" I say to the carseats behind me, still rear-facing since our almost-three-year-old twin girls are just tiny things. "You guys okay? What are you doing?"
"I'm a mermaid!"
I'm mostly okay too, although I almost have to pull over a couple miles down the road. It's the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and we're on the way to our friends' kid's birthday party. The weather is perfect, the roads are dry, the traffic isn't even that heavy. There's no reason to be prepared for a collision.
But as I replay the near-miss, I can feel that white SUV hitting the side of the van. I've been in a number of bad accidents. It's been many years, but I can still hear it and see it and feel it. I think about that SUV hitting our car, and what would have happened to the car at 75 mph, and what would have happened to the kids. I'm a little light headed and have to take a drink of my wife's crappy diet lemonade drink because I don't have a water bottle in the car.
I'm thankful that we have a safe car. That cars are safer now than when I was getting in accidents all the time as a stupid indestructible teenager.
And I'm thankful that I have good tires on my rig. Even after I stopped driving like an idiot, there were many years when I drove crappy old trucks that I wouldn't consider buying good tires for. Back East, I lived across the street from a used tire store (now an upscale coffee house) for years, and I would regularly swap out the completely bald tires on my '78 Suburban, two at a time, for some mismatched radials with a couple millimeters of tread left on them. When it snowed, I'd white knuckle it and bounce off of guard rails. I would have liked to drive without being in fear for my life, but not enough that I would shell out the money for decent tires.
The tires I have on our minivan are Cooper CS4 Touring. Cooper gave me a set in exchange for writing a little bit about them, and making a tire safety video. I didn't know how I would write a review of tires I had on my minivan, since I wouldn't be doing any aggressive driving, and I didn't foresee taking it out to the test track. But in the category of "evading a high-speed collision," I can truly say that the CS4s performed flawlessly. I honestly had visions of sliding out as I darted between lanes to get away from careening vehicles, but the van was as sure-footed as it could be.
Aside from other cars hurtling at us, we don't get many extreme driving conditions around these parts. I have managed to get the CS4s out in the snow a little bit, and on the freeway during a couple of our thrice-yearly downpours, and I felt as confident on them as I have on any other tire. Even the ones I've spent real money on.
Cooper wants you to know that National Tire Safety week is June 3-9, and that you should check your tires, like the doofus in this video.*
*The mustache can be explained by the fact that this video was shot in the middle of Movember. I can offer no excuse for the terrible acting.