I was rushing into London the other day for one of the Windows Phone launch events. Normally I’d take the train but the car made a lot more sense given I had my camera equipment with me.
I should explain that I drive a Range Rover. With the exception of a summer zooming around the London Docklands in my brother’s Ford Ka, I have always driven a Range Rover. I like the driving position, I like the road presence, I like the comfort. Although I’m a careful driver (they don’t call me safety dad for nothing) I am well aware of the legions of idiots who populate Britain’s roads.
Generally speaking, most people recognise the bulk of the Range Rover long before you need them to. Most people adjust their driving plans accordingly. For example, the Range Rover is one of the only vehicles on the road beyond large lorries and vans that London’s taxi drivers voluntarily give way to. It’s rare to be cut up by an arse in a fast car too. They won’t want to be damaged.
Let’s get to the crash
There was a traffic jam ahead as the M40 split to allow traffic on to the M25. I continued into London on the M40 and came to a halt behind a queue of traffic on the left lane, next to the hard shoulder.
All was good until I looked in the mirror.
I saw a smallish Citroen van approaching in the distance.
I could only see part of the shoulders of the driver. The rest of his head and shoulders was hidden because he was reaching for something on the floor.
I watched as he drew nearer.
And then I thought, shit… he’s going to hit me.
I watched as his van sped into the back of my car. His van hit with an almighty bang. I did the involuntary whiplash dance. In my rear mirror, I saw the van driver instantly pop his head and shoulders back up in alarm. I don’t think he’d found the pen he had been looking for.
I estimate he hit me at about 25-30 miles per hour. He hadn’t been looking at the front of the road for some time so the large smack came as a shock to him.
He put his hands over his face. I silently cursed. I was obviously going to be late for this launch. Both of us pulled over to the hard shoulder. I got out to inspect the damage.
As I rounded the back of the Range Rover I saw the total devastation of the Van’s entire front area. It was completely crumpled. Hardly any radiator left. At least a foot or so had crumpled away. The number-plate was hanging on by a single screw, the engine was exposed and some parts of it were also hanging off, or pushed back, damaged.
I turned to my Range Rover.
And I had to stifle a laugh. There was a small nick on the bumper’s paintwork. This is why I drive a Range Rover. If I’d been in any other car, I’d have been seriously shaken and the damage would have been particularly acute. (By the way, loads of people have been saying that’s not a van in the picture above… I know! I didn’t want to publish the actual pictures of the crash so I found that one online!)
The Mobile Comfort Blanket
The chap apologised immediately. He explained it wasn’t his van — he was working for the guy who owned it. He wrote his contact details on a piece of paper. I gave him a business card. But whilst he was writing down his details, I walked back to the car and got my phone. Now, I typically carry the following devices:
- BlackBerry Torch/Bold
- iPhone 4
- BlackBerry Curve
Which one did I reach for in this situation?
Well, the first thing I thought I should do was to record the scene.
I reached for the iPhone. I wanted the immediate click-click of the camera and the HD video just in case I needed evidence for the insurance. I automatically processed the fact that any photos would automatically be marked with the GPS coordinates. So I began snapping a load. His van, my bumper, the road position, the chap himself, the car’s profile and so on .
Then I reached for the BlackBerry. I called my wife, explained what had happened and assured her that I was ok. (I should point out I was stationery on the hard shoulder and the engine was off.)
And then, on the side of the M40 as I prepared to drive off — I wondered if there was an app for that. My insurer is Direct Line. I tapped open the App Store on the iPhone and searched for ‘Direct Line’, silently praying for decent mobile data connectivity. If ever I needed a boost or priority button, it was then. My iPhone is powered by 3 — whose network is amongst the best I’ve experienced. A few results appeared within a second or so. I saw the Direct Line one and my heart jumped (iTunes link, free). In the midst of the confusion, stress, worry and excitement of experiencing a car crash, I am surprised by just how dependent I became on my phone. Or phones.
The Direct Line app downloaded in 4 seconds.
I remember silently thanking Steve Jobs for the flawless point-and-click delivery architecture of the iPhone platform. Thank you Steve. Again, I was surprised by how reassured I felt seeing the Direct Line logo appear on my phone. I tapped it.
Immediately I was presented with the option to fill in my policy number and contact information. This is the sort of thing I should have done ages ago. I didn’t bother with that. I wanted to see the other options.
Delight and confidence filled my heart as I read down the options:
- Live traffic update (nice, but not relevant to me)
- Journey Planner (cool, again not relevant at the moment)
- Pinpoint My Location — find out precisely I am to help the emergency services. Great idea.
- A Torch Screen facility — in case I found myself in the dark
- Insurance Quote facility (not relevant in this case)
- Claims Incident Guide — a step-by-step guide to documenting an accident, your location, the participants, the photographic evidence — and the ability to submit the claim wirelessly to Direct Line. Love it. Absolutely phenomenal.
I stepped through the incident guide screen filling out the details and attaching the photos. The guide was hugely comprehensive but split into simple, easy steps that you could come back to. For instance, it prompted me to fill in details of any witnesses, information about any injuries, the contact details of the other party(ies) and so on.
Luckily I didn’t need to make an insurance claim on account of the other chap accepting responsibility comprehensively.
Indeed, that same day I got a phone call from his insurance firm to step through the rigmarole. They’re coming to pick up the Range Rover to fix the scratch 😀
I was quite surprised by my reactions. Why did I reach for the iPhone first when my primary device is the BlackBerry? In the back of my mind, I think I calculated that it would be a few seconds quicker to easily deploy the iPhone’s camera for photos and the HD video. I also swiftly calculated (unfortunately) that there was a 99% chance that a big brand such as Direct Line has already deployed an iPhone app, but that they most definitely wouldn’t have a BlackBerry app as yet. (I had a look and couldn’t find one later on). Despite having my iPhone in my hand, I actually put it down and picked up my BlackBerry to SMS my wife. Again, that was just quicker. Much quicker than arsing around with the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard. Indeed, all I need to do is type ‘c’ for compose and ‘h’ for Henrietta and I’m then ready to start typing my text. It’s that quick on the BlackBerry. Whilst this is going on I was also wondering why there wasn’t some kind of integrated ‘so, you’ve had an accident’ app that both me and the other driver could have activated.
The whole after-accident process has been a slight arse. It’s been well managed. But there’s been a lot of ‘touch’. A lot of phone calls that I have to answer. That is hugely annoying. I’ve had to fill in an accident report form for the other guy’s insurer to explain that, no, thanks to the Range Rover, I’ve got zero whiplash and that all I’d like to see is the scratch repaired. But I have to POST the PAPER form back to them. And I have to wait for a PHONE CALL from a nearby garage who will PHONE ME when they’re able to pick up the car.
PHONE PHONE PHONE. It’s all so inefficient.
Do you think that any time soon, this kind of organising will be swapped to the mobile and desktop platforms? How soon before we can get rid of paper and postage and people PHONING me. I don’t want to have to interact with folk in a synchronous manner about this kind of stuff. It’s all low level. I want to pick a day for the garage pick-up on my mobile app (or browser). I want to be able to change the appointment without having to phone up again and have to go through 5 different people. I want to be able to follow the status of the repairs from the device and be pushed updates as they’re posted by the garage and the insurance company. Surely this stuff isn’t too far away?
Surely we don’t have to wait another decade or so before this kind of workflow can be managed entirely via our mobile handset (or desktop, with a mobile browser interface)?
Tell me about your mobile & car crash experiences?
Have you used any mobile apps to report your car crash incidents? How has mobile helped you when you’ve been in a crash? Let me know.
[NB, I got the picture courtesy of Google Maps and Kent Online News]