​My First Car Accident

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on March 11, 2021 # Safety, Lifestyle

By guest blogger Zack Collie

A little over a year ago, I passed a huge millstone since breaking my neck in 2010 and becoming a quadriplegic. I got my license! After my accident happened, I never thought I would be able to drive a car. With the strength and hand function I have, I did not believe hand controls would allow me to drive, or if they existed, there was no way I would be able to afford them. Many people in the spinal cord injury world know that everything is SO much more expensive. I became a client of an organization called the Department of Rehab (DOR), which helped pay for my college. DOR helps individuals with a disability go to college to get a degree so they can get a job one day and have a future for themselves. Normally, for me to get to school, I would take Access, a public transportation service for people who do not drive. Access is based on bus stops, and they will come to your front door and pick you up. One day, the city I live in took out the bus stop near my house. Access could no longer pick me up from my residence. After passing this information to my DOR counselor, she told me that I qualified to get funded to start driving on my own and that they would pay for it. I was speechless. It took three years of back and forth paperwork and appointments.white toyota sedan

Getting a car with hand controls that I could operate on my own was life-changing for me. Being able to drive and be more independent has literally changed my life. A few weeks ago, on Sunday, I was driving home from my parent’s house and parked in my assigned parking spot in my apartment complex. I parked a little crooked, and the person who parks next to me has a big truck. I wanted to be nice and leave them enough room to park, so I decided to back up and repark my car. When I went to reverse, I miscalculated how much room I had behind me and pushed the gas too hard. I backed straight into a parked car behind me in another parking spot. There was a loud crashing sound, and my car immediately stopped on the impact. Everything happened in slow motion. My heart sank. Thankfully, I was the only one in my car. No one was injured. The car was parked, and no one was in it.white dodge van

I started to panic and did not know what to do. I drove back forward and parked in my spot. By now, people were watching from their patios and balconies to see what happened. I got out of my car to see the damage. My car wasn’t too bad. There was a dent in my bumper and trunk. I went to look at the car I hit…it was bad. The bumper was destroyed, the trunk was bent and pushed open. It was clear that the car was undrivable. I called my insurance to report my accident and filed my first-ever claim. It was a very scary and stressful experience. In the end, I am grateful no one was hurt. It was a learning experience for me. I know it could have been a lot worse. Driving has changed my life and given me so much more independence. At the same time, it is also dangerous and should be taken seriously. This was a very eye-opening experience for me. I hope that this experience does not scare other people away from wanting to drive one day.

Accidents do happen. This was one of those times, but it is also important that when behind the wheel, always be focused and aware of your surroundings.

Zack Collie is living with quadriplegia and was paralyzed in 2010 diving under a wave at Newport Beach breaking his C-4 vertebrae. Zack started a YouTube channel to spread awareness about spinal cord injuries and his life living as one. His mother, Amber Collie, is also a regular blogger for the Reeve Foundation.