Over a year ago, James Shaw Junior, lost control of his Subaru when coming out of a tunnel too fast on the Angeles Crest Highway. The dashcam footage has hit the internet and to say I didn’t gasp when the car went over the edge would be a lie. This man had a guardian angel that day!
What happened? To put it simply, I was going faster than I should have been and got distracted at the one moment that required 110% focus on an unfamiliar road. As an auto enthusiast, when you have a nice somewhat fast modified car with a loud exhaust you tend to like tunnels. They make your exhaust sound that much better, sort of like singing in the shower… Well, I found myself accelerating through this nice long and dark pair of tunnels; I had done this many times before in other tunnels. At the exit, I could barely see because it was so bright, a person standing and holding something while motioning. Wondering what they were doing, I stared, and stared, reaching the top of 4th gear, all while trying to comprehend what they were trying to tell me. Then I figured it out. They were telling me to slow down and watch the curve ahead, but it was too late. When I think about it now, I don’t ever remember seeing the road ahead until I was nearly out of the tunnel. In my mind I had assumed that it just went straight. At that point I was exiting the tunnel straight as the road curved to the left. I had no time to slam on my brakes beforehand. Realizing I was going way too fast for that section, I applied the brakes softly in an effort to keep the back end from sliding out, but, combined with a bump and rough switch in surface texture from concrete to asphalt, I lost traction. I began sliding to the left, the car oversteering, rotating counter-clockwise, over the center marker. I counter-steered, turning the steering wheel all the way to the right, but kept sliding to the left into the turnout. It was at this moment I knew, I had fucked up. I slammed into a berm and expected to come to a complete stop, but the terrifying journey wasn’t over. I went over the edge. It happened so fast all I can remember is everything crashing and spinning. I thought I was rolling over down the side of the mountain. I was confident I was going to land upside down and get crushed. I was on the world’s worst roller coaster that could only end with death, or so I thought. I came to a stop, still yelling, not fully comprehending what just happened, or how far down the mountain I was and that I actually just crashed my car. Luckily for me, I landed on a rock wall that was part of a drainage pipe that went through the mountain. It was the only horizontally level piece on an extremely steep sloped hill. Had I spun off a few feet before or after, I’d be dead. I never thought that I would be one of the guys that wrecks his car in the canyons. I’m not even close to being a pro driver, but, at least before the accident I took just slight pride in my situational awareness while driving, my somewhat decent understanding of vehicle dynamics and how various driver inputs affect a vehicle in motion, my autocross and canyon experience, and the fact that I haven’t gotten any tickets or into any accidents since I got my license (for what it’s worth). I messed up. I got too comfortable at the wrong moment and it got the best of me. It shows that things like this can happen to mostly anyone. The whole cruise up there was relaxed, leisurely, until that moment. I definitely wasn’t purposely trying to take that corner fast, I was caught up in the moment flying through those long tunnels, got distracted, and didn’t see the road ahead of me. I panicked last minute and that ultimately lead to this entire situation. I’m disappointed in myself, and I know some others may be disappointed in me as well. And I know it could have been worse in so many ways, and I’m kicking myself for that. But ultimately I’m glad to be alive and well and that I did not involve others in the wreck.