A Busy Week

By Roger Dahlby

As a trained firefighter and EMT volunteering for our local fire department, in combination with my KDOT experience, I have seen how important safety measures can be in preventing more serious injuries from a vehicle collision.
In fact, I saw several examples all in one week about six years ago. First, I went to the scene of a violent accident at an intersection where two vehicles collided. Both vehicles were damaged, but the smaller vehicle’s nose was completely crushed. All the occupants were standing by their vehicles when we arrived. None of the occupants of the vehicles wanted medical attention or to go to the hospital. Even the lady in the smaller car denied medical assistance after we asked all the questions to see if she was making an informed decision. My favorite question is; “Mam were you wearing your seat belt?” Sure enough the answer was, “Yes.” I had to believe her as I would have expected much worse injuries without it.
A few days later, I arrived at another bad accident on Auburn Road. A large work truck rear ended a stopped turning car.  The trunk with most the back seat was crushed in.  Back seat un-survivable.  I found the driver of the car standing next to her car.  She had to climb out the window to get out.  I noticed a small cut on her neck which I began treating. I asked all the questions such as, “What day is it?” And my favorite, “Were you wearing your seat belt?”   She said, “Yes I always wear my seat belt.” I’m sure she was because if she wasn’t, the secondary thrust of the occupants in a rear end collision forward to the steering wheel or dash can cause severe injuries. This woman took much convincing to go to the hospital as she stated she felt fine. The thing that I think convinced her was the object that cut her neck was best guess the gas tank! With no question, the seat belt along with all the vehicle’s designed crush zones helped.
On Saturday night I went to another crash call and found a car had hit a guard rail. The rail slightly folded up nicely and the car looking like it had only bumper and grill damage. The guy inside was much different - bleeding from the head with bad neck injuries and the tell-tale spider web on the window where one has to bet his head hit, indicating no seat belt. The crack on windshield even wasn’t that bad, even the door opened on the car.
But, our patient wasn’t answering the questions well and with a slurred speech, which indicated a possible brain trauma. We had to put a lot of equipment on him - neck brace, back brace, and spine board - and rode emergent to the hospital. 
I was already convinced seat belts are worth their weight in gold but this particular week put it indelibly in my mind.  I have no illusions that seat belts can save everybody and that sometimes luck or divine intervention just brings people through incidents like this. But let’s hedge our bets and wear them knowing they make us safer. 
If you don’t wear them for yourself, wear them for your passengers and loved ones. Believe me when I tell you that in some crashes, occupants in the vehicle roll around in there like pin balls and can hurt their friends and family in the seats around them. It has happened. 
Not enough? Well, the first responders and many times KDOT employees remember these accidents, and the worst ones stick in our minds like it was yesterday. I for one don’t want to see any of you riding away in an ambulance, a helicopter, or God forbid, a hearse.  Wear your seat belt and drive safely.

Roger Dahlby is an Engineer for KDOT and a Mission Township and Dover Fire Department First Responder



  1. You are the voice of experience - thank you for your service working accidents and helping people. Yes, seat belts save lives! Here's hoping your observations and the Put the Brakes on Fatalities campaign will encourage many more folks to buckle up every time, every trip.

  2. "(we) remember these accidents, and the worst ones stick in our minds like it was yesterday.” If you spend enough time in the field, you get to see some gruesome scenes, and they definitely stick in the mind.
    Thanks for writing!

  3. Anonymous9/30/2014

    The drivers and passengers in cars you come upon who are in accidents are lucky to have you as their first responder because of your EMT experience. Your message is also quite clear. They are less likely to be hurt if they are wearing a seat belt. Let's hope everyone how reads this blog will share your message with family and others. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  4. Roger, thank you for your service as a firefighter/responder. I'm sure if everyone could see what you've seen, we'd all do things a little more carefully, especially behind the wheel.

  5. Roger, thank you for sharing your experiences as a firefighter and EMT. You've seen it first hand and know that wearing your seat belt saves lives and lessens injuries. Keep sharing your experiences - you may not always know the person who's life you helped saved by doing so.