Dash cam captures the dramatic moment a SpaceX rocket launch led to a car crash

Discussions about distracted driving usually focus on smartphones, a device that you can choose whether or not to use when you’re behind the wheel. Reach for your handset at 70 mph and suddenly you’re no longer in control of that large chunk of metal motoring along the freeway, and pretty much anything can happen.

But there are other kinds of distractions that we have absolutely no control over, and one of them appeared to cause a nasty smash on a Southern Californian freeway on the night of Friday, December 22.

We’re talking about rocket launches. Rocket launches by SpaceX, at night. Who wouldn’t be distracted by that?

A driver caught the entire incident on his dash cam as he traveled with his family along I-10 near Beaumont about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. As the video shows, minutes after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base some 200 miles away at 5:30 p.m. on December 22, its bright trail illuminates the night sky.

For those traveling west, the dramatic trail appears right in front of them, clear for everyone to see. The occupants of the dash cam car, which by the sounds of it appear to be a mom, dad, and several kids, are understandably excited to see the rocket climbing in the night sky. But if you imagine that kind of reaction taking place in all of the cars along that stretch of freeway at the very same time, it’s perhaps little wonder a smash took place.

Seconds before it happens, the dash cam driver, who’s in the third lane, points out that “people are noticing [the rocket]” as the drivers ahead hit the brakes. Next, he voices concern about the driving behavior of one of his fellow road users, asking, “Is this guy an idiot?”

Then, as the traffic slows rapidly from about 65 mph to 35 mph, a car barrels into the back of another in the fourth lane, which then shunts into a third vehicle (at the 1:10 mark in the video above). The dash cam driver’s car is right where it’s happening, but his vehicle appears untouched by the nearby carnage. It’s not clear if there were any injuries.

A local news outlet said it received hundreds of phone calls from people as the rocket lit up the night sky, adding that many drivers pulled over to the side of the road “in stop-and-go traffic” caused by people’s curiosity.

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