Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Seat-belt usage .. Still having doubt?

OK .. fellow travelers of the highway system .. how many times a week do you head out of your driveway with the safety of your seat-belt hanging from the door-jam of your vehicle? Well, for your sake and the sake of those along for the ride .. I hope NEVER!

I received word late the other night - in an email - from Dan Small; TV-personality for Wisconsin Public TV's Outdoor Wisconsin, publisher of the Dan Small Outdoors website and his Blog the Road weblog - that sent chills up and down my seat-belt spine. Dan and his wife Shivani, came as close to death-on-the-highway as anyone would ever want to see. I'll let Dan give you the details in his
Blog the Road entries on the accident - he has photos, too.

Dan is a very good friend and special colleague. I am very thankful that he and Shivani were BOTH wearing their seat-belts: Dan in the front DRIVING and Shivani in the BACKseat as passenger of their Ford Explorer. Dan's first blog entry say's a lot: "Seat Belts' Save Lives". He and Shivani are living proof!


VELOCITY and the HUMAN BODY

I grew up on a farm in central Indiana. I was driving vehicles from the time I was able to reach the peddles with the help of a 'peddle-cruch' (aka, a 2-pieces of 2x4 strapped to the peddle - my 'cheaters'). We didn't use seat-belts because they did not exist: our loss.

So, what caused me to begin wearing seat-belts?

It was a front-row seat in the arena of 'Speed vs. Body Trauma', experience. A seriously stupid motorcyle accident (oh, no they don't have seat-belts on motorcyles - but they do have a 'helmet law'!! ), in the spring of 1970 provided me a combo, 'wake-up call and 2nd Chance', and I've been an ardent user and evangelist of seat-belts ever since.

OK. But you ask, "Seat-belts and motorcyles.. what's the connection?" Good question and glad you asked.

I was wearing a helmet. It was a full-size w/face-shield, buckled-to-fit and of proper size. I took a 90 degree corner at 45 mph - 35 mph TOO FAST! .. due to unfamiliarity with the bike's shifter (RULE #1: Don't ride when you're not educated to the bike). I shifted UP and NOT Down .. using my normal 'gun-the-throttle-double-clutch' (RULE#2: Don't 'play with the rules' ). I 'punched' the bike into the corner .. lost control .. and slammed into an embankment in a ' 30 mph T-Bone'. I was thrown over the handlebars, breaking 6 ribs, both collarbones, dislocating the right-shoulder, right-knee and - upon impact just above my forehead - my entire upper-neck was compressed over 5cm!! I was not killed and was NOT paralyzed - but my helmet was SPLIT IN HALF!! Safety device worked even if my brain was somewhere dancing on Pluto!!


A friend took a photo of the area a few days after the wreck to show me just how close I came to being killed. I've long since misplaced that photo, but the image of the 60 lb.- ROCK that lay embedded just inches from where I HIT the 12 feet high, 70 degree, embankment, is unforgettably etched on my mind.


Had I NOT been wearing the helmet, I would have been killed - for sure! Had I hit that rock - helmet or not - I'd have been just as dead. The thing is - I DID NOT hit the rock - the helmet DID save my life despite being destroyed in the process. It DID its job and I am alive and walking to prove it.


Again, what's this to do with seat-belts? Simply this:

Devices made to offer protection are only as effective as the USE they are given.

Had I NOT been wearing the helmet, I would have been killed. 80% of all vehicle fatalities - in which the driver or passenger were NOT wearing seat-belts would have had a 98% or better chance of surving the crash. IF ... I had hit the rock, it would have only been by the Grace of God I would have survived and NOT been condemed to a vegetative state of existance. In the same vein - a head-on crash at road-speed - and we all know that 'road-speed' keeps going up year-after-year, despite the posted speed limits - with a semi-tractor trailer, SUV, farm truck or even a Geo Metro, will likely result in death - seat-belts or not ... without a heavy dose of Saving Grace Application.


So, if living to see the dawn of each new day is a desirable life-long goal, for you - put on that seat-belt. Buckle it with gratitude to the thousands of hours of design and engineering that went into its develoopment so You and I can be safe when our 'luck runs low'.


Don't forget it. Or, it just may be the last bad decision you ever get to make... as your luck runs OUT !!


Ofieldstream

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