It was the text/call that no parent ever wants to get — but it started with the best words to hear: “Dad, I’m okay.”
I had just landed in Orlando for a Driven Brands conference when I took my phone out of airplane mode and the text and photos came streaming in. My son explained he’d gotten into an awful wreck the night before when a teenager on his phone ran a red light and T-boned him at 50 miles per hour. The impact to the rear passenger door on the driver’s side spun the vehicle 360 degrees, over a curb and onto a grassy area. Fortunately, as my son was spinning, he was able to maneuver and avoid a lightpole. Collision friends told me if he had not been wearing a seatbelt, he might have been thrown from the vehicle. They also said that even though he said he was fine, he’d probably be sore the next day.
Thankfully, the side curtain airbags in his 2004 Infiniti FX35 had deployed as designed. Frankly, I was surprised a vehicle that old had side curtain airbags — I figured it must have been one of the first vehicles to feature them. My research tells me that Toyota started offering them in 1998. Unfortunately, the car, which was paid for, was totaled, meaning a hefty new car payment was on the way — the last thing he needed after just graduating from college and getting his finances in order.
The drama is over now, things are settled, and he has a beautiful new 2023 Subaru WRX — the car he’d wanted since high school. But the incident reminded me of how important the job of collision repair is: that we literally hold people’s lives in our hands — the hands which touch the vehicle and must repair it properly to manufacturer standards without taking any shortcuts. It reminded me of the “empty chair” that has been featured at the front of Collision Industry Conference (CIC) meetings for some time now, reminding us that consumers do not have a voice at CIC, so we must be their voice, advocating for proper and safe repairs to restore vehicle bodies to crashworthiness and make sure all advanced driver-assistance systems systems (ADAS) are precisely and accurately calibrated. It’s a heavy burden to bear, but it’s what we signed up for. We are the repair professionals, and our decisions must not be overridden or influenced by anyone not liable for the repair. I’m proud of this industry and those who fight for what’s right — because they know what’s at stake. I found out in a very personal way and am grateful for the positive outcome.