Monday, May 11, 2015

Would You Have Stopped to Help?

Broken Down VanOn our way home from watching The Harlem Globetrotters Show at the Canadian Tire Centre last month, we took the 416 home. It’s the route we usually take because it’s the quickest and safest. Never can tell when a deer will jump out in front of you.

It was a Sunday evening, around 5pm and the weather was excellent for April 12. Especially given the winter we had. People had their roofs down and stereos blaring, trying to squeeze the final hours out of their short sleeved shirts. We too were one of those people. Then it happened.

The fuel pump failed leaving “Buchephalus” without his legs. We had broken down.

The two kids, Ed and I grabbed some snacks and bottles of water and proceeded to set ourselves up well off the side of the road to wait for support to come. We looked for bugs, collected beer bottles and garbage and made the “change in plans” seem like an exciting adventure.

I won’t go into the particulars about what went wrong, but when all was said and done, the van was stranded on the side of the road for two hours and 10 minutes. And I’m not exaggerating by a minute.

What I noticed very quickly on and was evident after our extremely long stay was that not one single person, slowed down or stopped to ask us if we were okay. Not one.

I was really surprised.

And then, I was terrified.

If I’d been alone with The Kids, I wouldn’t have had a cell phone with me. I wouldn’t have been able to call for help. I would have flagged someone down, I mean I would have HAD to flag someone down. But that’s not exactly a safe thing to do on a 400 highway.

And neither is slowing down/stopping. Is that what people were thinking? Is that why they didn’t offer help?

I chatted with some friends and their #1 theory was that people probably assumed we had a cell phone. Number two was that it was too dangerous to slow down. And finally, that the person slowing down would be putting themselves at risk.

I’ve stopped to offer people help in the past and would again in the future. I have because I’d never assume that they had a cell phone (as I don’t), see slowing down as no more dangerous then being on the side of the road in the first place (hello rubber necking*) and as for personal safety, I’m the person with the functioning vehicle and talking to someone with my window down an inch to offer to make a phone call on a 400 highway is a risk that I’m willing to take.

In case you don’t want to stop, remember that you can always call the police and report the breakdown.

No judgements. Just wondering what other people are thinking.

Would You have Stopped to Help? Why or Why Not?

*Rubbernecking is the act of gawking or staring at something of interest

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34 thoughts on “Would You Have Stopped to Help?

  1. Susan Patterson

    I am afraid that I would not stop, but I would phone the police or a tow truck to help them.

    Reply
  2. Rachel G

    Two winters ago our car went off the road into a snow-filled ditch, and so many people stopped to see if we were okay while we were waiting for the tow truck–we were on a 45 mph highway. Another time, we had a flat, on a 70 mph expressway and I sat on the shoulder while Angel fixed it, but no one stopped to check on us–my guess was because it was a much faster highway, people are less likely to stop because of the greater danger involved.

    Another time, when a car alternator failed suddenly, a guy stopped and helped Angel push the car off the road and gave us a jump– I so appreciate the people who have stopped to help us out in bad car situations, and I never get in a car without a cell phone because I’ve experienced enough car trouble that I never want to be without the ability to call for help.

    Honestly, unless I could see the people and they were all outside the car and looked like they needed help, I wouldn’t stop if I was alone in the car. There’s too many scary stories of women being attacked due to offering help to strangers in supposed car trouble scenarios and I’m not a particularly good driver either so the thought of merging back onto the highway after pulling off to the side is very scary. Plus, I know nothing about cars. If I was with Angel he probably would stop in many situations–he’s very handy with cars and a very useful person in any sort of emergency. When we’re together I don’t feel unsafe and we’ve even picked up hitchhikers a few times.

    My great-aunt, my grandma’s sister, was actually hit and killed by a car when I was a child because she parked her car on the side of the road in order to go and help another car that was in distress (I can’t remember if it was an accident or car trouble that led her to attempt to help). That story has stuck with me over the years and reminds me to be extra cautious.
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    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Rachel,

      So sorry to hear about the loss of your Great-Aunt.

      I always stop and help because I think about the number of accidents (rear-endings and such) because there ARE people on the side of the road. Whereas, if they weren’t the accident would be avoided.

      I would never get out of my car to help, just roll down my window. I figure that I’m the one with the car and not them. Having said that, I’ve never been alone with The Kids and in this situation.

      Sounds like you should always travel with Angel 😉

      Besos Sarah.
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  3. Sandy

    Sorry to hear of your car troubles, Sarah! I’m like you, I never assume someone has a cell phone because, despite the fact that we think everyone does, this isn’t the case (like yourself). If I could do it safely, I would most certainly pull over to see if I could call for help. In fact, I have on a few occasions. Two out of 3 times the person DID NOT have a cell phone with them (or a working one). If pulling over is too dangerous, there is always the option of reporting a stranded motorist to the police. I hope your experience isn’t the norm, but I have a feeling it is. Btw…love the name of your vehicle!
    Sandy recently posted…Sarah McLachlan, Atom Egoyan, And You! Win A Pair Of Tickets To A Black Tie Night At The #ggawards #OttawaMy Profile

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  4. Louise

    Sorry to hear it happened to you. I think I agree that stopping on a highway is tricky. My other fear – be it rational or not – is stopping when I’m either alone or just with my kids and not knowing what I’m about to get into to. I suppose it’s too much prime time drama TV.

    I do stop to help if it’s daytime, no kids etc and not highways – eg: I posted a while back about stopping to give a woman who obviously missed the bus on a freezing day a lift. Broad daylight, rush hour and STILL it felt weird offering a stranger a ride. I think it’s something I need to work on a bit, but we’re taught to be cautious and it’s sometimes hard to get kindness to trump that.
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    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Louise,

      Once, when I had The Kids in the car, I almost stopped and picked up a hitchhiker. At the time, I wondered “what was I thinking” but in reality, I probably have a greater chance on being in a plane crash then anything wrong happening.

      Remember that you can always call the local police department and report the breakdown.

      Besos Sarah.
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  5. Elizabeth Matthiesen

    With me it would depend on if it was safe enough to stop. I do remember once driving onto a motorway in England and just joining the traffic, seeing a car stopped on the side of the road. To me it looked like he was slumped over the steering wheel but when you’re going fast and merging into faster traffic it’s difficult to judge. No way I could stop there but I did stop at the next phone (they’re at regular intervals over there) to let them know what I’d seen. Poor guy could have had a heart attack, or just be taking a rest in a dangerous spot, who knows but I did feel better after having made the call. I also remember hitting a deer once, damaging my lights. A huge beast it was too, I had to pull it off the road on my own and not one car stopped to give me a hand – it was dark so maybe that was why. The first car that didn’t stop actually ran over the deer lying on the road so he would have known what the problem was.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Elizabeth,

      I understand that not everyone feels comfortable stopping or even can but I really believe that we need to start looking after each other. For all you know, you’re phone call could have saved his life and I know you know my story about being gifted a quarter.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. It’s always a pleasure to see a familiar “face”.

      Besos Sarah.
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  6. Denise B

    I think it would depend on the situation for me, yes 400 series highways are dangerous and risky to be stopping on, but I don’t think that would stop me. I think what happens is people assume, yes it could be that they have a cell phone or maybe because there was a man present, many think men are capable of handling car problems and take control of the situation, if it was just you and the kids people may have viewed it differently. I think it all comes down to each individuals comfort zone and sense of safety.

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  7. Amanda @MultiTestingMom

    OMG a similar thing happened to us a few years ago – I was so angry that people weren’t slowing down OR switching lanes to give us a bit of safety space. It was very scary for all of us and my son unfortunately was somewhat traumatized for a couple of years and didn’t want to ride in a vehicle for the longest time. What is wrong with people? At a minium slow down and switch lanes if you can!
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    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Amanda,

      So sorry to hear that this happened to your family. I was a bit worried that The Kids would be upset but we tried to make it seem like a party and feed them tons of treats (a.k.a emergency car snacks).

      Some people were pulling over but no one was slowing down or even making like they were going to stop. I have to admit that I was really surprized that not one person stopped.

      Besos Sarah
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  8. Carmen

    Hi Sarah,

    I am so sorry about your car troubles. I don’t know what I’d do with my kids for hours on a busy highway. To answer your question, I don’t know that I would have stopped for fear of my safety, but then if it had been an accident I would stop in a heartbeat. I’m not sure if it’s because in an accident someone could potentially need life-saving help right away, or if it just seems safer for some reason. That’s just my gut instinct. I would definitely call for help, and I have done that in the past. But, my initial reaction is of fear.

    Carmen
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  9. René

    I would have assumed you had help coming if you were not trying to flag anyone down. So I guess I would have left you for the coyotes..

    Reply
  10. Wendy

    I have been on both the giving help and receiving help end, I find the further from a city you are, the more people stop to at least check. We have some pretty large areas without cel service, So even with a phone it might not do much good. I have also had one time where we were able to move, but slowly, and truckers must have been keeping an eye on us, we stopped at several truck pull outs and they were saying they had heard on the CB about us.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Wendy,

      Although we were on a 400 highway, we were 45 minutes outside of Ottawa in rural Ontario. Where we were, cell service (our provider especially) is very sporadic. People would know that because they’d have problems as well. No one stopped or called for assistance. I don’t think anyone thought of it or cared.

      Besos Sarah.
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  11. Melissa

    We were in a similar situation a few years ago, except it was Christmas Eve and freezing cold. We were stranded with no phone on the side of the highway for a good hour before someone pulled over and asked if we needed help. During that hour, we tried to flag down cars and no one stopped.

    We have (on many occasions) stopped when seeing someone in need of help on the side of the road. We have offered to give them a boost, ride, call tow truck and even let them use our phone.
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  12. Elva Roberts

    IN our small Island province, people usually stop to see if they can help. However, in Ontario, I hope we would phone the police to help you out, especially if we saw children involved.
    Our world is no longer a safe place and this is terrible as it makes helping out a somewhat dangerous act’
    My brother left this small province for Ontario many years ago. He tried to break up a fight on a street in Toronto and was threatened with a knife. He said he did not try again after that event.
    He is a kind man but he had a wife and children and he did not want to put himself in danger.
    . There are many kind people and we must encourage one another to take reasonable risks or have the police involved if we perceive danger.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Elva,

      Sorry to hear about your brother but glad to hear that he was not harmed.

      Considering that we were on a 400 highway in Ontario that is frequently policed, I am confident that no one even bothered to call the police to notify them that we were stranded (which we were). Unless of course it took the police more than two hours and 10 minutes to come to our assistance.

      No matter how dangerous the perceived risk is, I think that the fact that no one helped is the real tragedy here.

      Besos Sarah
      Sarah recently posted…Recognizing Those That Give To Others — United Way Ottawa Awards Gala #uwheroMy Profile

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  13. mrdisco

    i’m confused why you wouldn’t have a cell phone. i probably wouldn’t have stopped either. that’s what caa is for.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Post author

      Dear Mrdisco,

      We travel 5 months of the year and 4 of those months are in Mexico so I wouldn’t be able to use a service plan (if I had one). I’m not interested in pay (at least) $40 for something I can’t use. I’ve been looking into a pay-as-you-go system (Fido and Koodo) but the few times that I might have needed a cell phone (this one not included because I was with my husband and he had his) really doesn’t justify having a cell phone. I haven’t had one in over 10 years and I have never needed one. Let’s hope things stay that way.

      Besos Sarah.
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