By Candice Breshears
The Kansas Highway Patrol has always been concerned with seatbelt usage and occupant protection in motor vehicles. In fact, it is one of the primary missions of the Patrol to keep motorists in Kansas safe by making sure that they are properly restrained. Troopers not only make sure that vehicle occupants are wearing their safety belts, but they always wear them as well.
Most of you have heard this message from a young age--from your parents, news media, your driver’s education instructor or law enforcement: “The first thing you should do when you get in a vehicle is buckle your safety belts.” It has been the law for over 20 years and now is a primary law, meaning you could be stopped simply for not wearing your safety belts.
Everyone tells you to buckle your seatbelt when you are driving down the road, but what about when you are stopped on the shoulder? What if your car breaks down, you have a flat tire, run out of gas, have been involved in a collision, and are on the shoulder, or you are simply stopped making a phone call? Should you still wear your seatbelt while you are parked? My answer to this question is yes!
Let me tell you a story about seat belts saving my life on January 10, 2011.
January 10, 2011, was a miserable day to be working the KC Metro area. It was snowing heavily most of the day, and the roadways were snow and slush-covered. I was parked on the northbound shoulder of I-35 near Olathe in Johnson County working a one-vehicle traffic crash. The driver involved in the crash and I were sitting in my patrol car while I completed the crash report and waited on a tow truck to arrive for his vehicle. I was wearing my seatbelt.
As a Trooper, we are trained to be aware of our surroundings. As we sat in my patrol car, I looked in my rear view mirror, and observed a van in the center lane attempting to pass a semi truck that was in the left lane (this is a six-lane highway, three-lanes each north and southbound). The semi truck was a fully-loaded car hauler. As I watched, the van lost control and began to slide towards the semi truck on the slick roads. The van struck the semi truck, which caused the semi truck to lose control and slide straight towards my patrol car. A crash was imminent!
I placed my car in drive, and tried to drive away from the impending collision. I was able to move my car about 5-6 feet before the impact. The semi truck, traveling a normal highway speed, struck the left rear of my patrol car. The trunk of my car was pushed into the rear seat area, with the sharp corner of the trunk lid only a few inches behind my head. My car struck the vehicle I had been working the original crash scene on, then spun several times. The semi truck overturned right behind where my vehicle stopped spinning in the ditch. My passenger and I received only minor injuries. I know for a fact--seat belts save lives!
There are lessons to be learned here:
1.) Wear your seat belts!
2.) Be aware of your surroundings!
3.) Be prepared to react!
4.) When driving in inclement weather, SLOW DOWN!
5.) Always move left and slow down when you approach a law enforcement officer on the side of the road! (They are doing a dangerous job, with the safety of all motorists being their main concern.)
Candice Breshears is a Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper