13 September 2011

Poor Panda

So yesterday, I had my very first car accident. I've been in a car when someone else was driving and a car ran into us but never had an accident while I was driving (until yesterday). Embarrassingly enough, the accident was my fault. I pulled out out from a 'give way' road into an intersection and didn't see a car coming which plowed into the back, left of our little blue car. I'd like to think that there was some reason for it, like my mind was focusing on other things (bad excuse because my mind should be on driving) or the other guy was speeding but it was an accident and I just didn't see the car coming - one of those things that happens.

Fortunately for me, the other car was just a regular little car and not a 4WD or a Ferrari or Porsche and the guy in the car was nice and didn't yell irrationally at me for pulling out. I think if the other car had have been a 4WD or a truck for that matter, our little car would have been squashed (and me with it).

After the impact, our cars were still drivable so we quickly vacated the intersection and parked our cars on the footpath and I did the whole "Je parle très peu le français" and the "parlez-vous anglais?" speil to which he shook his head and basically said "Non". I was a bit lost since it was my first accident AND it was in a foreign country. I didn't know how the Swiss like to deal with these matters but I had a feeling it was going to be a long process (things usually take a while around here - we still haven't received our permits which we applied for in August). I phoned Roy who then asked his French colleague to phone me back so I could pass my phone to the guy to get him to explain what was going to happen. The guy said to me in broken english that the police will come and hopefully one of them will speak english.

We waited in the hot sun for the police to come and access the situation. Three rather stern looking police fellows walked around our two cars to see what was happening. I had a few more phone swaps with the cops while my friend tried to explain to me what they were saying, I gave them my licence, blew in an alcohol breathalyser which gave a reading of 0.0 (for the record), the other guy blew the same (lucky for him), they asked me lots more questions, we established that it was my fault, we filled out the insurance paperwork, they filled out a police report, they asked me for my permit (to stay in the country) I embarrassingly told them it had expired but it was being processed still (I think he understood where I was coming from, I think they realise that there's lots of bureaucracy to get around), they told me that my car was unsafe to drive and to park it somewhere and get a tow truck to come and pick it up and then I hopped in the back of the police car and they gave me a lift back to St-Maurice. I was trying to hold back the tears that were welling up due to being completely overwhelmed with the whole situation and the cops had to put up with my constant sniffing due to a lack of tissues.

More phone calls - to Roy this time, trying to work out what the next step in all of this was. You think you can happily get along with life with a small amount of local language, until something stupid like this happens and you become completely vulnerable and dependant on others. We're lucky that Roy has a network of people at work who are native french speakers who could come to the rescue of us naive, foreigners. Our friend phoned the tow truck company and organised for them to come and pick me up at home so he could get the car and take it to a mechanic. We got a very rough quote for the repairs yesterday and they were more than half the cost of the car. The mechanic is going to give a more detailed quote today (hopefully) and our fingers are crossed that he grossly over-estimated the cost yesterday. Unfortunately for us, we didn't insure the car comprehensively so our insurance will only cover the repairs for the other guy. Just one of those things that you learn lessons from. Accidents happen and I am glad that everyone involved came out of it unharmed.