Smart Stories from Julie's Garage - January 15, 2010

It happened. My nightmare. My Smart car, Maxwell, was hit.

On my way home from work on Wednesday, January 13th, I was in a line of cars waiting for a red light (I was 5th or 6th in line) when I looked into my rearview mirror and saw a car coming up behind me. I could see the top of the driver's head, which told me he was texting!

I watched in horror and realized he wasn't looking up to check the road. 'Crap,' I thought. 'He's not going to stop.' (Actually, it wasn't 'crap', but this is a family-friendly blog...)

I took a deep breath, and tried not to seize up for the impact. He was going about 35 MPH when he hit me square in the rear. Then he looked up. The collision pushed me forwards about two feet and I rammed into the pickup truck that was stopped in front of me. HARD.

I sat there for a moment. I didn't feel any pain, no whiplash, no bumps or bruises. 'No, no, no, this didn't happen... I don't want to get out and see what he did to my car...'

Shaking, I backed out of traffic and pulled over to the side, out of the lane of cars. The 1996 Jetta that hit me had already pulled over and I parallel parked behind him and immediately snapped a camera-phone picture of his car, making sure to get a clear shot of the license plate. The pickup truck pulled over and parked ahead of the Jetta.

Deep breath. I got out of the car and walked to the rear. The first thing I noticed was the rear bumper panel was exactly where it should be. I could see the crease where it had folded in upon impact and then popped back in place. The plastic cap over the tow-hole was broken off, and the plastic around the tow hole was gouged, and slightly cracked. My exhaust pipe looked like it was bent down, and the black side bumpers were creased as well.

The driver of the Jetta was apologizing. The pickup driver came back to see if we were okay. He looked at my car, then at me. "Whoa. Are you all right?"

"I'm okay. Are you all right?"

He looked at my car again and kind of chuckled. "Um, yeah. I'm fine. So's my truck. Are you sure you're okay? Totally that guy's fault." He went to talk to the Jetta guy.

(Judge me by my size, do you?)

I walked around to the front of Max, while the Jetta driver was exchanging info with the truck driver. My front license plate was embedded into the bumper panel and the license plate frame was shattered. The black plastic grate beneath the bumper panel was creased, much like the rear bumper had been. However, all of the bumper panels appeared to be aligned right. I was stunned by the lack of major damage, especially considering the force of the impacts. The front end was damaged more than the rear, but it looked largely cosmetic.

I walked all the way around Max. The doors looked straight. None of the side body panels appeared to be displaced. The rear hatch opened and closed normally. I couldn't believe it.

After writing down the Jetta driver's name, phone number and insurance information, I got back in my car. The police weren't called -- in LA they suggest that if there are no injuries and all parties have exchanged insurance info, you don't have to call the police unless there's a dispute. The Jetta driver already admitted his fault to both me and the truck driver in between multiple apologies and was very cooperative, so we didn't call the police. Besides, when I phoned in the claim to my insurance agent, I would give a recorded statement then, so there really was no point.

Max hesitated just a moment when I turned the key and my heart skipped a beat. But then he started like always. No knocks. No weird grinding noises. I carefully put him in first gear and pulled back into traffic. The front end wanted to pull slightly to the right, but not sharply. Other than that, it felt normal.

I drove home on surface streets like a myopic old lady wearing her husband's bifocals. The first time I had to use the brakes, they kind of went 'thug-thug-thug' as if there was a flat spot on the disc somewhere, but since I had been braking when Jetta guy hit me, they probably had gotten torqued. But if I went easy on them, it stopped.

I'm still waiting for the estimate from the body shop my dealership sent me to, and the dealership wants to do some testing as well. They said something about having to check the airbags -- they didn't deploy, and frankly I'm sure they didn't need to because the seat belt did its job. I spoke to the body shop today and they assured me that Max was indeed repairable, and when I got him back he would be every bit as perfect as he was before the accident. Then they gave me a "cautious" estimate of $1500, including labor. The Jetta guy's insurance company will be overjoyed.

I'm completely impressed about the safety features of Smart. Even more so than I was before. The rear bumper body panel behaved exactly as described... it folded inwards and dampened the impact, and then popped back into place. The super-duper body frame felt like it was holding me in a strong cradle when the Jetta hit me. It felt solid. The front bumper panel took the impact of the pickup's bumper and squished inwards, effectively slowing the hit so I wasn't slammed around inside the car.

So I'm driving around LA in the insurance rental PT Cruiser (I could park Max in the back seat for Pete's sake). I figured this would be a good time to do a CostCo run and pick up a side of beef or a piano or something.

But I'll tell you all right now... as long as Smart Cars are available in America, I will own one.

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Comment by Barb Olivarez on August 25, 2011 at 3:39am
Well I had someone hit my little sweet pea.  Gosh I only had her a week and a half.  The lady said she did not see me....well how could you miss my 6 foot 4 passenger with the wild afro.   He yelled when she hit cause he still had one leg out of the door.  If she had gone any further she would have  broken his leg.  Well it took the autobody shop two weeks to figure out that ordering a door panel was the right thing to do.  Well got my little girl back on Friday and on Monday someone shot the back window out with a pellet gun or sling shot while I was the glass company tells me it will be a week for a window.  I was discouaged but said can you plastic up the back window.  I am going to drive my car.  The window has to come from Ontario Canada....hee hee I am a transplanted canadian living in Colorado.....looking forward to replacing the window.  Someone said are you sorry you bought a smart car and I told them no way.  My smart car is the smartest buy I have ever made.  Cruise on you little cars.  Glad you are ok.
Comment by Wally Gullang on January 23, 2010 at 8:42pm
I know the feeling all to well on being rear ended but I won't tell my story. The main thing you left out of your report, are YOU o.k..??? Did you get checked out ? Cars can be replaced, you can't.
Comment by Richard Baker on January 19, 2010 at 8:46pm
Our Cutie was rear-ended while we were at a red light as well. It was suprising as to how little damage was done, and although the rear fender was bent in against the tire, the plastic just popped out so we could drive. Really love this car
Comment by Julie O'Malley on January 18, 2010 at 7:18pm
UPDATE: Cosmetic damage to front and rear bumper panels. Plastic radiator support bracket (front) was cracked in the middle. No frame damage. Brakes and alignment needed adjusting. Reset airbag system. Total cost including labour - $1437.00

I repeat, as long as Smart Cars are available in America, I WILL own one.
Comment by Ryan on January 16, 2010 at 8:54pm
Yea.... not enough states are doing enough about cell phone use (period) while driving. I pretty much refuse to use the phone AT ALL while driving, and i think that something should be designed and put in all new vehicles (and maybe slightly older ones if performed as a warranty recall) that would jam any cellular signals. Half the time it doesn't seem that "making it illegal" is enough, since cops don't seem to care. Hell, about a week ago, i was on my way to see a movie with two friends of mine... and while we're sitting there at a red light, a police car (i believe it was a Saucon Valley Township cop) pulled up next to us. The cop had his laptop open, on, and was apparently talking in an mIRC chatroom. One of my friends was about to take a picture of it, and we think the cop must have noticed as such, because he pulled forward just enough so that it'd be out of view, but still had quite a lot of space between him and the car in front of him. Now... i not sure if PA has any laws against texting or anything while driving.... but i'm pretty sure that using a laptop, township property or not, while driving is QUITE illegal.
Comment by Robert Mosher on January 16, 2010 at 8:16pm
Soo Happy that you both are o.k. - your story had me sitting on the edge of my chair!! Max is a brave 'lil car and kept you safe.
Comment by james g on January 16, 2010 at 7:04pm
i've been rear ended twice, once by a honda company guy, he wasn't paying attention to traffic ahead and he slammed into my month old '82 ford escort at about 35mph with an '82 honda accord (this was in '82 of course) the rear of the body was pushed forward enough to wrap slightly around the doors, enough so that the doors were near impossible to open unless you were a great ape. the impact sent my glasses flying, they hit the dashboard and flew under the passenger seat. my neck suffered a severe sprain, which affects me to this day.

the second was in '96, i was in a company ford aerostar van, i was stopped at a light and watching in my rearview mirror as an idiot in a stretched chevy van was munching away on a whopper as he slammed into me, the van was slightly damaged and i was unharmed.

in my state texting while operating a moving vehicle is a crime, you should have dialed 911 as soon as you were safely out of the car, the idiot in the jetta should have been ticketed for distracted driving, which would increase his insurance premium if they don't drop him right away. i hope max gets better soon!
Comment by Eric on January 16, 2010 at 3:09pm
It goes to prove that one should not text while driving. Ok i been known to yak on the cel phone while behind the wheel, which is not a very good habit, but i will never text anyone while driving. I am so glad to hear that you are ok considering the impact you and Max took. I hope you already submitted your story to it is incidents like this that need to be told and shared all over the place just to show the country that the Smart is not a "death trap".
Comment by Carlito on January 16, 2010 at 11:54am
Glad to hear it wasn't serious. I sometimes think of looking in the rear view mirror to see if the person coming up behind will stop. They always have so far, but your report tells me to make the check more often. It also tells me to leave a decent amount of space between Carlito and whatever is in front of me.
Unfortunately we have to drive defensively of everyone else and not just ourselves... :(
Thanks for reporting out on this.
Let's be careful out there,
Pops and Carlito
Comment by Ryan on January 16, 2010 at 2:38am
wow.... that sucks.... but good thing that nobody was hurt and everything is being taken care of with your car. Hell, i'm still trying to get something done with Cure auto insurance (company of the guy who clipped my car in a parking lot). Kinda seems like, through e-mail, the agent was all talkative until I mentioned the words "Rental car". Nothing major.... just happened to catch the rear driver side bumper as he entered the lot (No underlying damage that i'm remotely aware of... still easily drivable).... but due to the fact that it was hit on a day where the temperatures were in the teens, the plastic must have been quite fragile, and it just kinda shattered. Just about all of the bottom valance/trim piece from the seam where the fender panel meets the center bumper panel, to the driver side end is gone. A reasonable chunk of the small fender flare that stuck out cracked off. The one bit of what i'm assuming could be considered the fenderwell between the rear panels and the tire is cracked in half and was hanging slightly down towards the tire... but i was able to push that back up into place. Fender panel is scratched, bumper panel is slightly scratched and looks like there's a tiny crack that started right at the seam of the two. And I had just got my lil Smart back at the end of April. Plus with our local-ish Smart Center (Devon) now closed.... *sigh*....

Again... glad to hear everyone is OK, and i hope you get your smart back soon.

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