HOUSTON—Concluding the emotional response occurs shortly after the initial crack and thud, a study published Wednesday in The American Journal Of Psychology has discovered a link between feelings of guilt and the bleeding man desperately clinging to your car’s hood, screaming at you to stop the vehicle.
The study, which used fMRI technology to monitor the part of the brain responsible for emotional awareness, found that 97 percent of humans experience extreme remorse while uttering the phrase “He came out of nowhere,” staring through a spider-webbed windshield into the bloodied face of a pedestrian, and continuing to barrel down a pitch-black country road as he helplessly pleads for mercy.
“According to our findings, a sense of guilt accompanies the realization that a visibly disfigured man is on the hood of your car, begging you to please, please, for the love of God, pull over,” said Rice University researcher Elizabeth Solomon, noting that the emotion intensifies as the weeping man shouts that he has a family and the driver swerves back and forth in an effort to shake him off. “Once drivers locked eyes with a terrified human being who was spitting out blood and chipped teeth to yell out the names of his young children, they almost universally registered feelings of regret.”
“Despite many such attempts, these pangs of guilt were not assuaged by muttering ‘Oh, Jesus, what have I done?’” Solomon added.
The study shows that the intense shame continued as drivers stepped on the gas and sped on through the night, continuing, on average, another three quarters of a mile in an effort to force the critically injured man to lose his grasp on their vehicle and go flying into a ditch. Those behind the wheel were reportedly tormented by the sound of broken fingers frantically scrabbling to hold on to wiper blades, side mirrors, and anything else upon which they might secure a grip.
While many drivers recalled experiencing momentary relief after slamming on the brakes and successfully catapulting the individual from their hood, Solomon said their feelings of dread returned with even greater force after they spotted, in the stark gaze of their headlights, the shattered man crawling on the ground and still calling out for help.
Solomon confirmed that squirting washer fluid onto the windshield in an attempt to get the blood off had no discernible effect on one’s emotional state.
“Drivers only attained a lasting sense of relief when the man, after somehow picking himself up from the pavement and attempting to limp to safety, was fatally struck by an oncoming semitruck,” said Solomon, explaining that in such cases, the entire blame for the deadly incident could then be pinned on someone else. “But instances of this were extremely rare.”
For those dealing with feelings of guilt after an experience in which a bleeding man holds on to their car and screams at them to stop, the study recommends driving home, thoroughly washing away the blood with a garden hose, and telling any family members or neighbors who ask that you just hit a deer.
“Try to get some sleep if you can, but the cold sweats and rapid heartbeat are likely to persist,” Solomon said. “Especially if you wake from a nightmare in which you see the screaming man’s face, return to the scene of the accident, and suddenly spot the trail of his bloody footprints disappearing into a nearby cornfield.”