The movies often allow time for thoughts and emotions to flow through the someone’s mind in a situation like this; the moments slow down to a crawl so that the character can muse on what they’ve done and what they’ve left undone. Memories and regrets.
The reality is that it happens brutally, unrealistically fast.
One moment, Jim was driving home, the route so familiar that he paid only the bare minimum of attention. He saw a flash of the truck run through the stop sign. Then there was the moment of impact, where the world abruptly turned 90 degrees, where “down” was now “left.”
The next moments were hazy. The airbag had deployed. The engine was ticking as it cooled down. The left side of his face was numb. The horizon outside of the cracked windshield was wrong. The mass of the car seemed oddly above him.
Jim heard a voice. It took a surprising amount of concentration for him to make sense of the words.
“Hey, buddy! Are you okay? Jezzus!”
It was a good question, Jim decided. Was he okay?
He learned the answer as soon as he tried to move. His left leg let him know that he was not, in fact, okay. Far from it.
I’ve been in a wreck, he thought.
“Hold still,” the voice said. “I’ve called the cops.”
Jim looked at his leg, at the bone poking through his jeans. He hoped the cops would bring their paramedic friends.