This post isn’t about public education. It’s not about technology. It’s about tragedy.
I was driving home from a family reunion over the Christmas holiday when someone ran out in front of my car, waving for me to stop. It was dark. I was on the freeway. I swerved, missed him and pulled over immediately. Someone came running up to my car yelling for a phone. It was then that I saw the car off the side of the road, pointing the wrong direction.
Knowing I would be a bit calmer on the phone than the hysterical person screaming for help, I called for an ambulance as I ran over to the car. A young girl, a high school student, was laying face down in the frozen mud. The car had rolled several times, and she had been ejected out of the rear window.
I provided what little help I could, and assisted with CPR as the paramedics arrived. I left that night not knowing whether she would make it. It was only when I returned home the following day that I discovered she had passed away.
The experience messed me up emotionally for the next several days. I didn’t even know the girl; I only later learned her name from news reports. It’s been several weeks since this happened, and I still brood over it. I don’t know that it’s something I’ll ever be completely over.
A primary seat belt law
The accident occurred in a state with a primary seat belt law. Buckling up would have saved her life. The other (buckled) passengers escaped with only minor injuries.
Nearby states with primary safety belt laws have done studies of safety belt usage, and found a significant increase in compliance under a primary enforcement law combined with extensive public awareness campaigns.
I hope the legislature will pass SB36, which would make Utah a primary seat belt state. Some legislators reportedly want more research to be done on whether it would be effective. Other states have already done the work, why should we repeat it? A primary law successfully increases compliance. It saves lives.
Improve public safety campaigns
I have sometimes been negligent about buckling myself in the rear seat, thinking the back seat is inherently safer. No more. I urge those responsible for public safety campaigns will include information about the importance of buckling rear seat passengers.
I can’t begin to comprehend the pain her family is going through. Even as detached as I was, I can’t help but experience depression, wondering what could have been done differently, and why it had to happen to someone so young. I can’t imagine the horror the driver must still feel.
Please, pass a primary seat belt law.
- Deseret Morning News, “Mom offers emotional plea for primary seat-belt law”, Shawn Mansell, January 20, 2007. Referenced 2007-01-23 10:39.