Remember to ‘buckle up’ all the time

Many years ago, just after college, I taught in a church high school in Kitchener, Ont. I loved the job and the students, and I appreciated my fellow teachers and the community.
One of my favourite places to visit on Saturday was the Kitchener Market—a wonderful farmers’ market occupying two floors of a very large building.
There you could buy farm fresh produce, homemade cheese, baked goods, and a host of other goodies.
Since I didn’t have a car, I rode the city bus to the market. Just after leaving the market in the bus, we came to a dead-end and turned left. In front of us when we stopped was a large bold billboard—“Accident is just a word until you have one.”
A few years later, we were driving home to Edmonton, Alta. late at night. There were four of us in the car—my husband and I were in the front seat and our friends, Lowell and Rae, in the back.
Suddenly we saw headlights weaving in the distance. The driver was obviously under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, the road had very deep ditches filled with water so we had no place to go.
We slowed to a crawl as he came closer. It was obviously going to be a head-on collision. But just before he hit us, he swerved to the right.
The next thing I knew, I was on the floor of the car. I got up and Howard was waking up, with the steering wheel pushed into his chest, his hat on at a funny angle.
Even though I could feel blood flowing down my face, I volunteered, “I’m OK, honey. How are you?”
His reply was a weak, “I’m-m-m all-l-l right-t-t.”
And I knew first-hand that the billboard was true. “Accident is just a word until you have one.”
Although our car was totalled, we fortunately did not have critical injuries. Today, we would probably not have had any injuries—our seatbelts and airbags would have protected us.
It was one year later, in 1959, when Volvo safety engineer Nils Bohlin invented the three-point safety belt.
At the time, seatbelts were a single strap with a buckle over the lap—a design that risked injury to body organs in high-speed crashes. And the seat beside the driver was often called the “suicide seat.”
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that three-point seatbelts reduce the risk of deaths in car crashes by at least 45 percent.
And Bohlin’s invention is credited with saving a million lives and saving many more millions from serious injury.
But there’s one problem with the three-point seatbelts. They only help when you buckle them up.
Last year, more than 40,000 people died in highway crashes in the United States. It is estimated that 11,000 of these lives could have been saved if seatbelts had been worn.
Statistics say that rarely will you find highway patrol officers, ambulance drivers, or emergency room doctors not wearing seatbelts. They have to pick up the pieces after an accident.
So remember, buckle up every time you get in the car. It may save your life.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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