First they hit, then they run

Driving home from class tonight, someone hit my car. His lane was closed ahead due to construction, and I guess he decided that he’d rather merge in front of me than behind me. Sadly, he ended up trying to merge through me at about 75-80 MPH, and then decided to run for it. I caught up to him long enough to get his license plate number, and then he was gone (making a fast exit from 101 South to 85 South, then running a red light to turn onto Central Expressway South).

Worse news for him: a witness pulled over and stayed to make a statement to the police, and his memory of the incident was a good match for mine.

The damage? Several deep, long scratches along the driver’s side, from about the side mirror forward to the front of the wheel well, with the finish scraped off of the tire rim in several places. The witness said my car was pushed to the right about a foot and a half by the impact, and he was surprised that I wasn’t hurt. No apparent mechanical damage, and it drove home fine.

I’m fine, and I have excellent insurance, so even if the sorry bastard is uninsured, all will be well. It could have been a lot worse. In the cop’s experience, an impact like that at that speed could have easily caused my front tires to lose traction with the road, sending my car rolling sideways down the highway. He figured that the relative size and mass (my “small” SUV versus his smallish hatchback/whatever) are what saved me.

The (surprisingly small) damage. Aside from the scratches, the door rubs a bit when you open and close it:

car damage

[update 10/11/2006: My insurance company ran the license plate number and came up with a 2000 four-door Volkswagen in Sunnyvale, color unknown. Given the location of the accident, that suggests that I got the number right.]