OnStar helped comfort Sondi Ryersee during a confrontation after a crash
As a former paramedic who currently works as a captain in the Canadian Coast Guard in Tobermory, Ontario, Sondi Ryersee knows firsthand what it’s like to save people in stressful situations. But even trained safety professionals need assistance from others sometimes.
Sondi had visited her mom in Florida and was driving home to Canada. She was driving her brand-new GMC Sierra Denali truck on I-75 near Atlanta, Georgia, when she saw a sea of red brake lights ahead.
“I came to a stop and looked in my rearview mirror, and the semitruck behind me was still coming,” she says. “It hit me, and I skidded forward, but luckily my new truck has all the active safety features. So when I got close to the car in front of me, the truck applied my brakes hard.”
Sondi’s truck came to a full stop, just missing the car in front of hers. At that point she remembers hearing the voice of an OnStar Emergency Advisor*; the impact had activated Automatic Crash Response* in Sondi’s truck. The Advisor calmly told Sondi to find somewhere safe to pull over, stay in the truck and wait for help.
“I was in a bit of shock, and all of a sudden OnStar was there,” she says. The Advisor requested police be sent to the crash location.
Suddenly, the driver who hit Sondi’s vehicle began pounding on her window with a wad of money in his hand, shouting at her not to call the police. “I started putting my window down and he was screaming, and thankfully the OnStar Advisor said, ‘Lock your door and stay in your vehicle. The police are on their way,’” Sondi says.
The Advisor connected Sondi with her husband, and then she waited for police to show up. Overwhelmed by emotion after the scary experience, Sondi remembers feeling thankful OnStar was there to help her.
“I’m a Coast Guard captain and I work search and rescue, so I kind of do what OnStar does. I assign which boat needs to be dispatched to handle emergency situations, and I’m usually very strong, calm and under control,” she says. “Although I didn’t have my team around me, OnStar became my team right there and helped keep me safe.”
Sondi’s truck was damaged but drivable, and she was able to drive away from the accident scene after police assessed the situation. She is glad OnStar told her to remain in the vehicle and not interact with the aggressive driver.
Unfortunately, Sondi’s experience is not uncommon. There has been an uptick in extreme road rage behaviours since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Pam Shadel Fischer, senior director of external engagement at the Governors Highway Safety Association in the U.S.
“The key to dealing with road rage is to resist engaging in any way. Responding to another driver’s aggression could escalate the situation even more,” Fischer says. “Don’t get out of the car.”
In a recent survey, 95 percent of Canadian drivers admit to engaging in aggressive and road rage–like behaviour when behind the wheel.1 Nearly three in 10 of those drivers have also thought about doing something impulsive, like throwing an object at another vehicle, physically confronting another driver or trying to frighten someone by following them for a while.1
While Sondi’s situation did not become violent, it’s worth being aware of how dangerous road rage can be. “Anyone can experience road rage, but typically drivers engage in aggressive behaviours rather than rage, as the latter involves creating or causing physical harm to someone else,” Fischer says. “Most drivers have, at a minimum, honked their horn at another driver that did something to annoy them. This behaviour is common particularly on roads with high traffic volumes.”
Before this experience, Sondi was used to selflessly helping others, but she never put much thought into how it would feel if the roles were reversed. Above all, Sondi feels gratitude to the Advisor who connected to her vehicle after the crash.
“I’ll never drive without OnStar and I made my dad get it,” Sondi says.