By Ms. Patricia Deal (Army Medicine)December 14, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas - It was hard for her to talk about it, but she knew by telling her story, she might be able to prevent someone else from experiencing the same tragedy.
Kim Russell, safety program assistant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, lost her father and 35-year old cousin in a car accident in Gulfport, Miss. Although it happened twenty years ago, she still feels the pain and grief.
At the accident, both men were ejected from the vehicle. Her cousin, John Newsome, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Fred Flowers, was rushed to the hospital but never regained consciousness and died the next day.
"The accident happened just about five minutes from our house. It happened on a road both my father and cousin knew very well. There was no real good explanation for what happened-no bad weather, no drugs or alcohol. It was just a freak accident," she said. "We may never know what happened for sure. But we do know that if they had just taken a few precautionary steps, like wearing a seat belt or paying closer attention to the road, they would be alive today."
Sadly, it often takes a terrible tragedy to drive home the importance of always taking extra precautions to stay safe when driving-even when going short distances.
"Driving requires your full attention! I can't emphasize that enough," said Barbara Scheh, CRDAMC safety manager. "Driving instructors estimate that a driver makes 200 decisions for every mile of driving. If you take your eyes off the road for three or four seconds at 55 miles per hour, the car travels the length of a football field. It just takes an instant for something drastic to happen."
It only takes an instant to prevent a tragedy, too, Scheh added.
"Just taking that couple seconds to click your seatbelt can save your life," she said. "Last year alone, 40 percent of Soldiers killed in off-duty vehicular accidents and 55 percent in on-duty accidents were not wearing restraint systems."
Russell hopes that by sharing her story, she gets one person to put on their seatbelt and put away their cell phone.
"It happened in an instant, yet changed my life and my families' lives forever," she said. "You never can predict when tragedy will strike. You never think about it happening to you. I never got to say goodbye to my father."