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Reasons it is better to buckle up

February 1, 2012 - Rob Weaver
The email received at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning contained heart-breaking news.

The message stated the State Highway Patrol was investigating a fatal accident that occurred about 11:22 p.m. Tuesday on a Marion County road. A 24-year-old woman from Prospect, who was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt, failed to negotiate a curve and went off the roadway.

The vehicle overturned, partially ejecting her out of the sun roof. The vehicle came to rest on its top.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. The patrol says she was not wearing a seat belt.

I want to address the theory that not wearing a seat belt allows the occupant of a vehicle to be “thrown clear” during an accident. Oh, that can happen; in fact, during the first two years I was a reporter in another city, I covered three automobile accidents -- two collisions and one single-car crash -- during which occupants were ejected, fully or partially, from the vehicle.

First, let me note that usually, in order to be “thrown clear” of an automobile during a collision, an occupant must go through a windshield, window or door. Or, as we learned Tuesday, a sun roof. But not always, as I shall explain.

In one collision, the driver of a sedan was stopped in the crossover of a four-lane divided highway, waiting for traffic to clear so he could turn left. His vehicle was hit from behind, and the sedan rolled onto its right side due to the impact.

The weather was warm, and occupant seated on the passenger side had the window down. The collision threw the passenger partially out of the open window. The injuries the passenger received when the car rolled onto him were fatal.

In the other collision, the driver of a pickup blew through a stop sign at a Y-shaped intersection. His truck was struck on the left side by a Cadillac, which forced the driver’s side door open. Rescuers called to the scene frantically searched for the driver of the truck, who indeed had been thrown clear. Eventually, one of them shined a flashlight under the car. The pickup driver’s body was pinned underneath.

In the third crash, the driver of a sports car went off the road into a deep ditch. Because the car’s convertible top was down, he was tossed from the vehicle without going through safety glass or a door. The driver landed in the ditch and survived ... long enough for his organs to be harvested. After transplant recipients were arranged, life support was terminated.

The lesson is simple. Buckle up. Every time.


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