Beliefnet
Everyday Ethics

Yesterday I almost got in an accident. Worst part was, it was pretty clearly my fault. I was in unfamiliar territory, and I realized at the last second that I needed to be in the left lane, the turning lane, to get where I was going. So I flipped on my blinker and started to slip into the left lane.

And heard HOOOOOOOONNNNNNKKKKKK!


In my haste, I hadn’t properly checked the mirror and had failed to see another driver coming up in that lane. He or she braked in time (barely), sparing us both a long day of filling out insurance forms and tying up traffic. Luckily, we weren’t going fast enough for either of us to have gotten hurt…

But still. I wanted to apologize, and there was no way to do so. I just had to keep driving on to keep the flow of traffic going. It made me wish for a bumper sign that could light up with the words “mea culpa.”
Then I thought, “if we had custom signs on our bumpers that could flash apologies, you know more often than not, they’d be flashing something else… like ‘screw you, buddy’.”  And then we’d really be in trouble.
I also thought about how you’re never supposed to cop to blame if you have an accident — or so my father the lawyer always told me. Don’t say anything incriminating. Let the lawyers and insurance companies work it out. I was lucky I didn’t have to — I can comfortably accept responsibility for my near miss because it was a miss. But would I do as much, as freely, if we’d connected in that left-turn lane?
It wasn’t my car (it was my dad’s). And it was his insurance that would have taken the hit. So — while the responsible thing would be, in theory, to stand up and admit when I made a mistake, in practice, it’s his insurance company that might drop him. Even if I paid the difference if they raised his premiums, I can’t stop them from letting him go if that was what they chose to do. 
I’m just glad I didn’t have to face this ethical dilemma. What would you have done?

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