How safety training and a lack of distraction saved a life

The following is a guest blog post written by Dom Mongarella, our Director of Risk Management. 

My daughter drove off to continue her sophomore year at college, nearly two hours from our home.

About 20 minutes after she left, she called because she thought the car was acting funny. I told her to go to the rest stop about a mile ahead of her, and I’d bring a car so she could drive that back while I drove her car.

On my way, I eased into the left lane to pass an 18-wheeler. I wasn’t fooling with the radio or on my phone. I was just driving.

Something caught my eye in the air ahead of me. It was a tire. In the air.

Now, a car tire and rim weigh about 40 pounds. I was traveling 73 miles an hour. That’s roughly 2,900 pounds of force in an impact, which is what happened.

Often, people will say time slows down in an accident, but that’s actually your adrenaline kicking in.

As the impact occurred, I braked and ducked to my right instinctively, causing me to start fishtailing. I didn’t know how close the truck was, and I knew there was a drop off on that side of the road. I decided to go left since there was a wire rope barrier separating the interstate. I hit the barrier and started seeing the support poles coming up out of the ground.

I told myself to duck in case one came through the windshield. I also thought, since my life wasn’t flashing before my eyes, I was going to be OK (a lot of thinking, right? There’s the adrenaline!).

After taking out seven support poles, I came to a stop. Because of the slope of the median, the car was tilted to the left and the door wouldn’t open. I saw what I thought was smoke (it was in fact just mist from the broken radiator and remnants of the dirt flying up), but I wanted out of there NOW. I threw my body against the door hard several times and it opened enough for me to get out.

I got away from the car and did a quick inventory. I didn’t see any blood, I could move, my head didn’t hurt, and my vision was clear. I couldn’t locate my phone anywhere, but a nice man stopped and called 911 for me.

When the Trooper arrived, all we could surmise was either the tire fell off a pickup or it was already on the roadway and an 18-wheeler clipped it and put it in motion. I’ll never know.

Safety lessons learned 
In my “safety” life, I spent seven years as a AAA Driving Improvement instructor and another five teaching defensive driving courses in Texas. I think my training helped guide my actions during those 30 seconds after the tire hit my car.

That I walked away unhurt is a testimony to the seat belt. That I was able to maintain some semblance of control is because I wasn’t messing around with something that distracted me.

I am sharing my story because in an instant, my life was almost changed and I don’t want that to happen to you. Wear your seat belt, avoid distractions, and take an afternoon to attend a defensive driver’s course. It doesn’t make any difference how long you’ve been driving; I guarantee you’ll learn or remember something, and you may save a few bucks on your insurance, too*.

*As a SECURA policyholder, you may be eligible for a discount if you are over the age of 55 and complete a driving course. Talk to your independent agent to learn more.

Dom Mongarella is SECURA’s Director–Risk Management. In this role, he is responsible for enhancing risk management services, and leveraging the knowledge and strengths of his team to support our agent partners and promote safety for our policyholders. In addition to his long history of safety, risk management, and loss prevention roles, Dom served 21 years in the United States Air Force.