Importance of Safety Messages Seen Firsthand

by Chris Herrick
I started my first career at NCR Corporation as a sales representative. My job was to sell retail applications to businesses that helped them control their inventory and provided them with an audit trail of business transactions. While working at NCR, I always felt like I was trying to sell someone something that I had very little personal experience with and never used myself. For the last 20 years I have worked for KDOT, and have listened to all of our safety campaigns over the years “Click it or Ticket,” “Drunk Driving: Over the Limit, Under Arrest” etc.
Three years ago I really realized how important our campaigns are and how seat belts do save lives. Three years ago my in-laws came to visit us so they could attend a school band concert that my youngest son was playing in. My in-laws, who were in their 70s, lived in Wichita and traveled to Topeka for the concert. After the concert was over they decided to drive back to Wichita even though it was raining. We didn’t like the idea of them driving in the rain but they had commitments the next day that they couldn’t miss.
On their drive back to Wichita, it started raining hard. Just outside of Emporia my father-in-law started hydroplaning and hit the middle concrete barrier on the Turnpike. He tried to regain control of his car but he was unable to and their car careened out of control down a steep embankment. Their car ended up in a creek that was quickly filling up with water.
Luckily, a car behind them saw what had happened and stopped to help them. Both of my in-laws were able to walk up the embankment with help from the people who stopped to help. Both of my in-laws were wearing seat belts which minimized their injuries. Their car was mangled but somehow they were able to walk away from the crash. Without their seat belts, I don’t believe that they would have survived the crash. My mother-in-law sustained a crushed vertebra and my father-in-law suffered a head trauma that later caused a brain bleed.
Unfortunately for us, my father-in-law was on a blood thinner and later suffered a fatal brain bleed due to the head trauma and passed away. It was really difficult for me to lose a person I looked up to and considered one of my best friends. But I am convinced, if he wouldn’t have been wearing a seat belt, he probably wouldn’t have survived the immediate crash. My mother-in-law survived the crash and is doing fine, which is a blessing.
It took a personal experience like this to drive home the point of how important our safety promotions are and how important it is to wear your seat belt. Seat belts save lives, so PLEASE buckle up!

Chris Herrick is the KDOT Director of Planning and Development.

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