Wreck on the highway

It’s a quiet, hot day in a rural part of the county. Jeremy Jones and his wife Jenny haven’t been home long from work when they hear the noise of metal crashing hard against metal. The floor they’re standing on quakes, and they run for the door. From the vantage point of the front porch of their house on a hill, they see below them a frightening sight. Two cars have crashed head on into each other on the rarely traveled dirt road.

“I’ll call 911,” Jenny says, running back inside the house. “Go see if you can help.”

Jeremy’s long legs cover the yard and leap over the ditch where pieces of mangled metal and broken glass are scattered. Directly in front of him, he sees a crumpled midnight blue mustang upside down in the ditch across the road. He runs across and stoops to see the driver but sees only a bloody leg bent at a strange angle.

“Hey, can you hear me?” he yells. “You all right in there?”

Getting no answer, he yells, “Hold on, buddy. Help’s on the way. My wife’s calling 911. I’ll stay right here with you ‘til they get here. Try to stay calm and don’t worry.”

Hearing no answer, he turns to the other car, a yellow Nissan. Smoke is pouring from under the crumpled hood. Jeremy runs for it and tries to open the door, but it won’t budge. He runs to the other side, but finds it jammed against a large pine tree. He can see a figure in the front seat slumped over the airbag. When he speaks to this driver, he gets no response from him either.

“The rescue unit is on its way. My God, we’ve got to get him out,” Jenny said, joining him, and looking at the smoke. “I think the car’s on fire.”

Together they try to reach the unconscious driver, but the car’s bent frame holds him captive.

“They’ll have to use the jaws of life,” Jeremy said. “I don’t see any other way. I just pray they get here fast.”

By this time several cars have pulled up to the scene of the accident. A few people come to help, but most are gawking. More and more vehicles pull down the dirt road, blocking both lanes. Drivers strain their necks to see the carnage of the accident. One woman is snapping pictures with a digital camera. Some cars even have children hanging out the back windows, trying to see.

From a distance comes the wail of sirens.

Jeremy Jones turns for a minute to look around him.

“I can’t believe this,” he growls to no one in particular. “The ambulance won’t be able to get in here unless all these people get their cars out of the way. These people could die waiting. Everybody’s lost his mind.”

In the wrecked mustang the driver stirs and moans, as the blood continues to trickle from his leg. Jeremy leaves the accident victims so he can try to move the traffic along, but people move reluctantly. Finally, after what seems like hours to Jeremy and Jenny, the sheriff arrives to move the onlookers away and get the emergency vehicles to the site.

Nobody dies because the ambulance couldn’t get through quickly enough. Not this time, that is.

What is it that makes people rush to the scene of an accident just to look? Onlookers blocking ambulances is a common problem I’m told. And law enforcement officers must spend valuable time moving gawkers along when they could be helping the victims. While low-class people are seeking cheap thrills, someone could be dying.

I’m told that the problem occurred last weekend at the fire in town, too. They needed extra help to move traffic along so emergency vehicles could get through.

Sometime ago I read an article in Psychology Today about this problem. The writer contends that there still exists in humans an ancient characteristic left over from our more savage days—the desire to see blood and gore firsthand. Ambulance chasers—or in this case, blockers—have not progressed up the human ladder very far. They’re still about as savage as it’s possible to be, and most dangerous to the rest of us.

You may contact me at maryann@baxnews.com or at the Baxley News-Banner, 241 E. Parker St., Baxley, GA 31513.