14 Details About The Horrible Accident That Almost Killed Stephen King

Stephen King's car accident seemed like a violent story from one of the novelist's books. It was so brutal, it almost killed him. The bestselling author was out for a walk near his home in 1999, when a distracted driver slammed into him with enough force to send King over the top of the vehicle and into a ditch. He was lucky to survive, but he suffered serious injuries.

Who hit Stephen King, leaving him injured? Bryan Smith, the driver of the van, instantly became famous as "the guy who almost killed Stephen King," unwillingly becoming a part of the canon of Stephen King trivia. Charges were brought against Smith and he made a heartfelt apology, but many accused King of abusing his celebrity status in his treatment of Smith during the court case.

The time Stephen King almost died has as many strange details as one of his novels. In fact, this true Stephen King story has been adapted into several his works already. So what happened to the guy who ran over Stephen King? And did Stephen King really buy the van that hit him? The answers to these questions, along with other strange details, will keep you on the edge of your seat.

  • Stephen King Bought The Van That Almost Killed Him For Next To Nothing

    Stephen King Bought The Van That Almost Killed Him For Next To Nothing
    Photo: Warner Bros.

    Is it a coincidence that Stephen King wrote about a demonic vehicle in Christine before he himself had an evil vehicle experience? Probably. But to ensure any overly enthusiastic fans wouldn't pounce on the souvenir, King purchased the 1985 Dodge Caravan that hit him from Bryan Smith for $1,500.

    He wanted to raise some money for charity by allowing people to beat up the van in return for a small fee, but King's wife Tabitha talked him out of it. It was eventually demolished in a junk yard.

  • Bryan Smith Died On Stephen King's Birthday

    Bryan Smith Died On Stephen King's Birthday
    Photo: Paramount Pictures

    On September 21, 2000, Bryan Smith passed away and was discovered in his trailer by his brother. Sheriff James Miclon said, "There he was, on his back in bed, covered up. He was just laying there, like he went to sleep." A preliminary autopsy showed inconclusive results and the cause of death was unknown. It was later discovered Smith died of an overdose of painkillers.

    On the same day, Stephen King turned 53 years old. Perhaps because it was his birthday, King became remorseful, commenting, "Our lives came together in a strange way. I'm grateful I didn't die. I'm sorry he's gone."

  • Smith's Driving Record Was More Terrifying Than A Stephen King Novel

    Smith's Driving Record Was More Terrifying Than A Stephen King Novel
    Photo: Columbia Pictures

    Bryan Smith was not what anyone would consider a "good" driver. He had a previous conviction for driving under the influence, once passing out on his lawn after running several cars off the road. Between 1989 and 1998, he was convicted 11 times for driving under the influence and speeding. His driver's license was suspended and restored three times in 1998 alone. 

    After the accident, King commented, "There isn't really anything that he's got that I want except his license. Unfortunately that's a paper that's very hard to get away from anybody in any state." According to Smith's driving record, King's statement is incredibly accurate.

  • A Hungry Dog Made Smith Swerve Off The Road

    A Hungry Dog Made Smith Swerve Off The Road
    Photo: Warner Bros.

    In a weird connection to Cujo, a dog is partially to blame for Stephen King's accident. Bryan Smith claimed he was distracted while driving by his dog, who was loose in the van. Smith had two Rottweilers named Pistol and Bullet, said to be his only real companions.

    Supposedly, Bullet was trying to get into a cooler full of beer and, in trying to stop the dog, Smith swerved off the road at the exact spot Stephen King happened to be walking. After Smith's death, Pistol and Bullet were found next to his body and placed in a shelter.