Long and boring description of the illusion
The Limo was a long black limo with an SUV sort of front. The front lights were really odd. Kind of long and thin. There was no side lighting on the limo except some weird sort of LED pin striping on the passenger doors. I have looked at hundreds of limo pictures and cannot find anything to match this.
The road was a dark county road in a very flat agricultural area with flat land and few trees. You are always able to see all sorts of lights on the horizon.
The part of the road just before the accident goes dark however. The road bends and as you go straight along you are looking into some bushes and the side of a house. There are a TON over evergreen trees to the one side that obscure the normal back ground lights.
As I was going alone, I noticed a vehicle in the distance with a weird left headlight - looked like it had been in an accident or something.
What I was really looking at was the side view of the limousine's headlights. After the accident I noticed the headlights were odd, but it did not click at the time. The way you gauge the distance of headlights in the distance is looking at their size, brightness and distance apart. Because of the side view, they were dim, small and close together - poof they must be far off. At the same time I was looking at them past the last street light before the accident, so the much dimmer led side lighting was likely not noticeable.
Suddenly I went around a curve that I thought was a bit farther along.
In reality, at that point in the road, almost all the light came from the limo. When he moved the car back and forth trying to angle into the driveway, the only thing I could really see was the lights on the limo. My entire horizon shifted at once. To my brain that meant the world just shifted, or I went around a curve. My brain made the logical choice since the world never shifts - It told me I just went around a bend.
This was a bit hard to understand at first, but I have done lots of reading and your visual sense will override your other senses. If your visual sense tells you something you will believe it. Pilots are taught this (and still crash planes due to illusions).
After going around the curve I felt kind of disoriented, and confused because I thought the curve was farther up.
The sense of disorientation, for lack of a better word is a clue for pilots they are experiencing an illusion. One page I was reading said the minute you begin to feel that hand the controls to your co-pilot because you can no longer trust your eyes. If you are the only pilot stop looking out the window and look at your instruments. Of course, I knew nothing of this at the time.
At that point I had the sense I was not in my lane. Also, the car in the distance seemed to have jumped up, but it was really hard to figure out if it was moving. I tried to figure out where I was on the road, but everything seemed jet black.
What I was really doing was looking straight into the side of solid black limo to try and determine where I was. The car had jumped because the angle of the lights would change. At this point it may have no longer been logical to determine the lights were headlights, but there is a sort of perceptual inertia that takes affect.
I was getting really confused at this point and the road seemed weird. A second or two later I saw the refection of my headlights on the black limo. I still did not realise what I saw and tried to go around it...only to then realise there was a limo there too.
Once I got out the car, it was no longer that dark and there was a limo there. I was thinking of how I would explain to the cop how I got disoriented when I went around the curve, but I looked back and the curve was not there. At the time I assumed it must be farther back and I must have lost track of time somehow.
It was not until the next day drove by with the person who picked me up that I realised the accident was BEFORE the curve. Not after like I remembered. The above illusion was the only way I could reconcile what I saw with the physical events. It took a whole lot of reading to determine why it happened.
Basically when presented with an ambiguous scene the brain interprets it as what should be there. Either its a car approaching or some weird limo wedged in the middle of the road. Sort of an Occam's razor sort of thing.
Another way of illustrating this type of illusions is looking at New Zealand's worst air disaster. In broad daylight an airliner flew straight into the side of a mountain making no efforts to turn. When they got the cockpit voice recorder just before the crash they heard impending collision warnings going off and the pilot screaming for "go round power" (extra power to go around an object). Oddly enough though, the pilot never turned the plane.
They could not figure it out until they realised earlier in the tape that a crew member mentioned seeing a landmark that was no on the route they were taking. It turned out that the route had been changed in the computer that ran the autopilot. The landmark the crew member saw was on the path he THOUGHT the plane was on. The crew interpreted the ambiguous things they were seeing as what they expected to see. I think the killer was the white cap of the mountain became an ice shelf off in the sea. Even at the last second, they were unable to see what was right in front of them.
The pilots were, posthumously, deemed not at fault.
That was what happened with me. You see a car approaching you on a dark road all the time. I have never seen a limo wedged across the road, never seen those headlights and never seen the weird led lighting. I saw what I expected to see.