Surviving a crash on Lincoln Drive

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The writer took this photo of his Pontiac Vibe on Lincoln Drive about 5 minutes after he crawled from the wreckage.

I flipped out on Lincoln Drive.

It was not my best idea on how to spend a rainy, cool March morning.

In the eighth month of my retirement from the newspaper business, I was running an errand for my youngest daughter to pick up contact lenses and a new pair of glasses.

Unfortunately for me and my wife's beloved, 13-year-old Pontiac Vibe, my route from Center City to Glenside led me to use the twisty and sometimes treacherous Lincoln Drive.

Growing up in both Germantown and Mount Airy, I thought I was familiar with driving the two-lane, divided roadway that links those neighborhoods to Kelly Drive and City Line.

When I was 16 years old, it was a rigorous test of my newly acquired driving skills in the late 1960s. Frankly I don't remember driving on it until I was 17 or 18.

In those days, the speed limit was 35 miles per hour, but that restriction was lowered to 25 after numerous high-speed accidents claimed lives and maimed drivers. Many drivers ignore both speed limits.

The most infamous of those high-speed accidents occurred on March 18, 1982, when renowned singer Teddy Pendergrass lost control of his Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit in the early morning hours. The car reportedly hit a guard rail, crossed the opposing traffic lanes, and stopped when it hit two trees. The accident injured his spinal cord, and he was paralyzed from the chest down. He died of natural causes on Jan. 13, 2010, at the age of 59.

My crash was not as painful, but the end result for the four-door Vibe was similar.

I was traveling around a downhill, right-hand curve in the right-hand travel lane when I lost control of the car and the roadway. The car traveled across the left-hand lane, scraped the concrete Jersey barrier, and flipped upside down. It came to rest in the right-hand lane with the hood of the car overlapping the curb and resting in the dirt.

I was suspended upside down in my seat belt, wondering what had happened.

Lucky for me, there was sparse traffic, and no one drove into my car while I was hanging upside down, because Lincoln Drive has no paved shoulders in the area running next to the Wissahickon Creek.

After gently releasing my seat belt and slumping onto the interior roof of the car, I was puzzling out whether I could crawl through the shattered, driver's side window when another driver opened the door from the outside. I was able to back out of the car on my hands and knees.

And I stood up unassisted and bruise-free.

The Vibe was towed to an auto body shop, and because we didn't have collision coverage, the $12,000 repair bill made us into a one-car family.

We had canceled the collision insurance on it just this winter, thinking with the age of the car it was a prudent choice.

My family insisted I go to the emergency room for a body check (over my protests), and three doctors gave me a clean bill of health.

Glad to be alive and able to tell this tale.

Carl Rotenberg is a retired reporter for the Times Herald of Norristown. crotenbergwriter@yahoo.com