It’s been a while since I last wrote a “Crazy Travel Stories” post. Not to say that nothing crazy has happened to me recently, but I’ve been preoccupied with updating my adventures from this summer. I’m sure that I’ll write about the details of some “crazy” adventures I had from those trips, but until then, I’ll use this post as a break from writing about the destinations and instead recap an incident that happened a few years ago which I consider worthy of a “crazy travel story.” Let’s go!
Crazy Travel Stories #9: That One Time I Got into a Car Accident in Lyon…
It was January 2016, and I was in my first year of teaching English abroad in France. It was several weeks after the New Year, and I returned to my schools in Normandy to teach in the small town I was stationed in. My teaching schedule was somewhat inconsistent, as some weeks I wasn’t needed at my schools, and other weeks I was in the entire time. That said, I ended up having a considerable amount of free time, which I often took to get out and travel.
There happened to be a schedule mix-up during the third week of January, when I ended up having Friday to the following Tuesday off. It was a full, four-day of nothing, and I decided to utilize the extended weekend for a jaunt to Lyon. I hadn’t been able to go the previous December for the fête des Lumières, because they were canceled due to les attentats that’d happened in Paris in November — now that things were more-or-less stabilized, I thought it was a good idea to go.
I had a friend who lived in Lyon and who allowed me to stay with her. As for getting there, I decided to use BlaBlaCar, a car-sharing app where you pay to carpool with someone who happens to be going to the same destination as yourself. I’d been using it since that past October, and I had nothing but good experiences. Sometimes, the costs ended up being cheaper than trains, too! And considering that I didn’t have a car (nor could I drive manual), carpooling with someone was the best way to get to Lyon.
Considering that no direct routes were available my small town, I booked a ride from Rouen, the nearest city that actually had someone going to Lyon on the day I was going. It was merely a matter of catching two buses over to Rouen, where I met up with my driver, his husband, and another passenger who were all spending a weekend in Lyon. We left between 9:00-10:00 in the morning, and I settled into their car for the next few hours in-transit.
A couple of hours into the journey, I noticed the outside scenery change from cold to colder: mind you, even if I was living in Normandy, it didn’t snow. However, as we approached the Centre region, flurries kicked in. I hadn’t seen snow since I was a kid, and seeing it again as an adult fascinated me. I chitchatted a little with my driver and others on the ride over, and we stopped about three or four times at rest stops (“aires d’autoroute”) for coffee and cigarettes — very French thing to do, I know.
Snowfall got progressively heavier as we passed the Centre and entered the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, in which Lyon is situated. We were about an hour to 90 minutes away from the city proper when the incident happened: my driver was cruising idly along the semi-empty highway when I saw a car in front of us. My driver saw it, too, and assumed that it was going about the same speed as himself, so he kept the speed the same as well. However, he underestimated that the car was going a lot slower than expected, and it wasn’t until my driver started braking about a five-second distance from the car in front. By then, it was too late.
“Merde!” my driver cursed under his breath, as the car brakes churned out an ugly, grating noise and we collided with the bumper of the car in front of us. In those seconds leading to the collision, I felt my heart race suddenly, and I braced myself for any potential impact while sitting in the backseat. I was ready for the worst, and I could swear that life flashed before my eyes — definitely wouldn’t have been great getting seriously hurt on a weekend getaway.
It all happened within a few seconds. Thankfully, the impact wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated: it was by no means a small tap against the bumper, but it wasn’t a major collision, either. In the end, the bumper of my driver’s car was slightly-crumpled at the tip, whereas the other car’s had a noticeable, but superficial dent. No one was injured, thank goodness, but we were slightly shaken.
Alas, my driver had to stop the car and head outside in the freezing cold to exchange information with the other driver. His husband, the other passenger, and I waited inside the car. I was still in a slight state of shock, but I was grateful that I, along with everyone else, were perfectly unharmed. It did, however, peeved me that it would set back our arrival time to Lyon — then again, accidents happened anywhere, anytime.
The exchange took about 20 minutes, and we continued on to Lyon, albeit with a slightly-damaged car. It wasn’t enough to notify highway officers, and I assume that my driver would take care of his car upon reaching the city. My driver noticed that I still looked a bit shaken by the whole ordeal, and gently-asked if I was all right.
“Not what you expected of a smooth ride to Lyon, eh?” he joked lightly, trying to make me feel better. I appreciated his concerned, and laughed it off. As scary as it was, it wasn’t that bad. No one was hurt, and we still had a working car to get to our destination. The rest of the journey went off without a hitch, and we pulled into the Part-Dieu train station about 90 minutes later than expected.
Looking back, it didn’t end up being that bad of a car accident. If anything, it was merely a fender bender. None of the passengers nor the driver got a scratch, either — the only issue would be that it set back our arrival to Lyon by an hour and a half, which isn’t the end of the world. It’s incidents like these which make traveling exciting, but it can also come at a price. There are always risks to venturing out into the world; even if you may think that bad things couldn’t happen to you, they still could. Anything could happen to anyone. Being cautious and having common sense are essential and, while they still might not ensure our safety 100%, taking such measures can minimize anything that could go wrong while out on the road.