|Amanda Horner, left, and her cousin|
By Amanda Horner“We’re only going a couple miles.” It’s a phrase I hear so often when people explain why they don’t think they need to wear a seat belt. “The speed limit is only 15 mph.” Whenever I hear these words, I cringe.
When I was 14 years old, my uncle sent my cousin and me to the store because a dog they were dog sitting had eaten the hamburger intended for the family dinner that Sunday afternoon. Nichelle, who was 16, and I begrudgingly agreed to run the errand. We jumped into her 1993 Honda Accord, fastened our seat belts and started to make our way the one mile to Hen House. As she started her car, the newest Creed song played, a song I already detested, but Nichelle wanted to listen to.
As we backed out of the driveway, we punched the radio buttons, doing our best to win the music battle. In an effort to get the upper hand, I pulled my seat belt loose and leaned as close to the radio as I could. Mustn’t. Listen. To. CREED. After Nichelle paused at the stop sign, just two houses down from where we started, she turned right and kept turning right. Going only approximately 10 mph, the car managed to jump the curb and head straight into a tree.
I remember being confused. I knew there was glass on me, but I wasn’t sure how. I remember Nichelle telling me to “Go get my dad.” I got out of the car and ran back the two houses we had passed to go find help. I remember noticing blood falling on the ground, completely clueless it was gushing from my head.
I ran through the garage and to the kitchen sink, trying to save my Sunday clothes from the blood that was already covering them. My uncle was told a foggy version of what happened, but knew enough to go get my cousin. He carried her back, unconscious from hitting her head on the steering wheel, her car too old to have airbags.
The ambulance, firefighters and police arrived. A policeman lectured me for not wearing my seat belt. I wanted to explain that I had worn it, but I knew it didn’t matter because I knew he was right.
I knew he was right because even though I had buckled, I loosened it and put myself in danger. I knew that he was right because Nichelle and I were fighting over the radio; she was not paying attention to the road. I knew he was right because I could see the bump in the windshield of that 1993 Honda Accord that my head created.
When I hear people say they don’t need to wear a seat belt because of a short distance or because of a low speed limit, I remember that lecture and I remember how lucky Nichelle and I were to only have cuts and bruises from our crash. Crashes can happen anywhere, even two houses down from your uncle’s, only going 10mph.
Amanda Horner is a Traffic Safety Specialist with the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office