One morning, some close friends stopped by the house to borrow my husband's truck so they could pick up a big-screen TV. We traded vehicles for the morning and agreed to meet for lunch at their house. It was the first time I'd driven their Nissan Altima coupe. Both of my friends are several inches taller than me and, while I adjusted the seat, I consciously decided not to adjust the seat belt. It rode high on my neck and was irritating, but I figured as long as it was on, that was good enough.

I was about a half-mile from their home when I stopped in a left-turn lane waiting for an oncoming Toyota Highlander to pass. The cross streets were controlled only by stop signs. From my left, I saw a speeding car approaching and immediately realized it wasn't going to stop. The driver barreled into the intersection, never even touching her brakes before T-boning the Highlander. The impact sent the Highlander swerving toward me, hitting me head-on at 45 mph.
What happened next was an odd experience I now refer to as "instant slow-motion."

Everything happened amazingly quickly, yet I saw every bit of it in clear detail until the moment of impact. Suddenly, I was sitting in the car with a deployed airbag -- airbag dust floating in the air -- as the Highlander crunched-in the Altima's front end. Fortunately, no one was behind me, so my car had room to move backward. When I finally stopped, my car had been pushed back some 40 feet from the point of impact.

The driver of the Highlander helped me out of the car and asked if I was OK. A quick assessment proved I wasn't seriously injured. I said, "My neck is on fire." He was immediately concerned about a neck injury, but I clarified that it was the front of my neck. I pointed and he saw what I meant -- a dark red abrasion caused by the seat belt riding too high. Had I adjusted it to the proper position for my height, I could have prevented that injury.

In the end, I was also bruised where my seat belt contacted my right hip, and my right shoulder was bruised from being hit by the GPS, which had become a projectile. My eyes needed to be flushed of the airbag dust and I ached all over for a couple of days. All in all, my injuries were very minor considering what they could've been had I not been wearing my seat belt. Although the crash destroyed two vehicles and left one just short of totaled, everyone was wearing their seat belts and walked away with only minor injuries.

While not being injured was the biggest blessing of the whole incident, there was another reason for me to be thankful. My husband was in the middle of an Iraq deployment, and I was home taking care of our kids, who were in school. Without a seat belt, I could've been badly injured and would've needed someone to take care of the kids until family arrived or my husband was able to get home. Though I know his unit would have been able to fill the void, my accident would have affected unit readiness by taking my husband out of theater. That's not something I would have wanted on my conscience, especially when it could have been so easily prevented by wearing a seat belt.

There's not a single excuse for not wearing your seat belt; but there are many good reasons why wearing one is important. First and foremost, they'll save your life and prevent serious injuries, not to mention wearing seat belts is the law in every state but New Hampshire. In addition, they also prevent heartache and misery for friends and family and protect unit readiness. Even if you are the best driver -- one who obeys the traffic signs and rules of the road -- you have no control over what other drivers do. When "crunch" time comes, wearing a seat belt is the one thing you can control.

Page last updated Mon July 30th, 2012 at 12:42