I drove for almost 23 years without a single wreck.
Maybe a driving record like that is like a fault line where tension ratchets up over centuries of calm and then unleashes a once-in-a-millennium earthquake. Because I really never thought I’d live to see my car flipping down a mountainside.
At least I saw it; I wasn’t in the car.
I had been shooting pictures in East Canyon a couple of weeks ago when I pulled up to a gate to State Road 65. I put my car in park and hopped out to open the gate.
When I turned around, the car was starting to roll backward.
I thought it would stop when it hit the slope above the road.
It banked off the upper slope, flipped over on the road, and landed on its tires on the slope below, pointing straight downhill. I stood on the road watched 3,500 pounds of station wagon rumble down the mountainside until the car was swallowed by a grove of trees. Alone at the top of the hill, I could hear the breeze rustling through the leaves.
The car was so well hidden I had to show the police where to find it when they arrived.
I’m not sure how this happened. The car had automatic transmission, so you’d never put it in neutral; in drive or reverse, you’d feel the car moving if you tried to get out. I’m certain it was in park when I got out, and my husband noticed it was in park in the ravine when he came to help me get my stuff. So it’s not clear why it rolled backward.
But the simple lesson learned is: Use your emergency brake. Always.
The whole matter worked out better than things normally do when a car is totaled. I was alone and no one was hurt. No other car was damaged. Insurance has been great (shout-out to United Insurance Group), and I have a slick new Subaru Outback that talks to me. The e-brake activates at the push of a button.
Just, seriously, always use it. If you’re not in the habit, start practicing now. Don’t wait 23 years to be scared into it by the sight of your car rolling down a mountain.