In the state of Utah, it is the law (now) to buckle up. The state seatbelt campaign's slogan is; Click it or Ticket. Unfortunately, in 1991, when I was 18, it wasn't the law. My family (Mom, my two younger sisters, and my little brother) decided to head to St. George, Utah (about 4 hours from where we lived) to see a family friend run in the annual marathon.
One of my sisters had recently gotten her driver's license and was going to drive us there, to get in some practice. As we hopped into our brand new station wagon, my Mom told us all to put on our seatbelts. She and my sister, who was driving, were in the front seats and they had automatic seatbelts (which were a thing back then). Those of us in the back, opted to not wear them as they were not comfortable.
We were on the freeway and after about an hour or so on the road, my sister somehow overcorrected the car. Our car rolled 4 times. We were headed south and ended up on the opposite side of the freeway facing north. Luckily, we did not hit anyone else, but everyone (except for my Mom and sister who was driving) were thrown from the car going at least 55 mph (the speed limit back then).
I believe it was no coincidence that here happened to be an emergency room doctor traveling right behind us. He had one bottle of saline solution that he poured into an open wound in my leg. I broke both of my femurs; one was a compound fracture (where the bone comes through the skin) and the opposite femur was broken and had no pulse. The doctor slammed it back into place and was able to gain a pulse. When he first walked up to me he thought that, if I were to survive, I wouldn't have my legs. But somehow, I survived and my legs survived, and I am grateful that he was there.
I also broke my nose, shattered my left orbital floor, cracked the back of my skull (which makes your eyes swell), broke my left clavicle (which punctured my lung) and broke my left knee - many of my injuries were on my left side, as I was told that I landed on my left side. Along with many scrapes that left behind scars, and road. Once I got to the hospital, they found a rock on my windpipe.
My other sister who was thrown, broke one femur and had a hairline fracture in her pelvis on the opposite side, and had a temporary internal head injury. My Mom and sister who was driving were alright because of their seatbelts. Unfortunately, my little brother (who was only 9 years old), did not make it. They actually revived him at the scene and life flighted him to the children's hospital, but there was no brain activity and the next day my dad (who was not with us in the car because my parents are divorced) had to make the roughest decision of his life - to have life support turned off.
It was a long recovery. When I first became somewhat conscious, I heard my dad's voice telling me that I was in an accident and I already had rods in both legs, had a plate under my left eye, and tubes breathing for me and feeding me. I stayed in the hospital for two weeks. I then was immediately transferred by ambulance to a local rehabilitation center where I lived for the next 3 months, and got around by wheelchair.
My sister who was thrown also was admitted to the rehab for a while, and it was nice for us to have each other there. It was a long road to recovery; LOTS of physical therapy and eventually learning to walk again.
That day changed my life forever and I am a different and stronger person because of it. Since that day, there hasn't ever been a day go by where I haven't worn my seatbelt. My brother's picture was used in Utah's Hold on to Dear Life seatbelt campaign, and when wearing seatbelts finally became a law I was so happy.
I always make my kids buckle up and they know the "Click it or Ticket" slogan. The other day, we passed a billboard that said "Buckle up your precious cargo". That phrase really hit me in a new way.
Of course I have shared the story of the car accident with my kids and I stress how important it is to wear their seatbelts, but seeing that billboard gave me an idea of another way to help my kids understand the importance of buckling up.
I pointed out the billboard to them and then gave them the example of when a truck is carrying items in the back, the items are strapped in tightly with rope to keep things from flying out of the truck. I asked them "If you were to put your favorite stuffed animal or toy in the back of a truck, you would want to buckle it up and protect it, right?" I let them know that THEY are my precious cargo and that I would never want them to fly out of vehicle because they weren't buckled up.
I think that gave them some more understanding (by putting it in their perspective of thinking about their precious things). If your kids are struggling with not wanting to buckle up, maybe explaining it to them this way will help them too. My kids are pretty good about it, but they like to get unbuckled when we are 'almost' home - which is not ok. I've been stressing that just because we are close to home doesn't mean that you can't still get in an accident (and then I tell them the story of one of my best friends who got into an accident just down the street from her house).
Do you know what the seatbelt laws are in your state? Can you get pulled over for simply not wearing one (primary offense), or do you have to break another law first (like speeding, etc), in order to get ticketed for not wearing one (secondary offense)? In Utah it is a primary offense.
Click here to check out what the laws for seatbelts are in your state. It's also so important to follow the car seat laws for your state and have your littles properly restrained. Click here to see what those laws are in your particular state. Stay safe out there and always protect your precious cargo!
-Karin (aka Know It Mom), XO