By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Last October, Richard “Fuzzy” David was driving a dump truck down U.S. 6 for his job with Jim Palmer Excavating when he was struck head-on. His truck was rammed so hard, it was turned sideways, the cab started to tear off the frame, and the driver’s door was pried open.
David’s seat belt was credited with keeping him from flying out of the dump truck. He was injured, but was able to return to work – thanks to be buckled up at the time of the crash, said Sean Brennan, a friend and safety coordinator at Jim Palmer Excavating
“He was saved by his belt,” Brennan said last week during a “Click It or Ticket” promotion organized by Wood County Safe Communities at Thayer Ford in Bowling Green.
“There’s no way you can brace yourself,” Brennan said. “There’s no way you can get a seat belt on at the last minute.”
Not only is wearing seat belts the law, it’s common sense, he added.
Overall, Wood County motorists do pretty well at wearing their seat belts, according to Ohio State Patrol Lt Angel Burgos and Sandy Wiechman, coordinator of Wood County Safety Communities.
Motorists’ use of seat belts in the county is 93 percent, compared to 84.3 percent in Ohio.
Stops at various checkpoints in Wood County showed differing levels of compliance by drivers. The highest seat belt use (100 percent) was found in northern Wood County at Ohio 795 near the Interstate 75 interchange. The lowest compliance (83 percent) was found in southern Wood County on Ohio 18 at the I-75 interchange.
Since 1975, seat belts have been credited with saving more than 300,000 lives in the U.S., according to Edgar Avila, president and chief executive officer of AAA.
Last year, the Midwest ranked second in the nation for highest seat belt usage.
“Let’s shoot for first place next year,” Avila said.
Avila also stressed that it’s the driver’s duty to make sure everyone in the vehicle is belted in.
“You are responsible for everyone riding in your vehicle,” he said. “Don’t be a casualty. Please wear your seat belts.”
In Wood County, 38 percent of the fatal crashes in 2016 involved unbelted drivers and passengers. That number dropped in 2017 to 33 percent.
“We need to do better,” Wiechman said. She suggested that motorists make it automatic to buckle up anytime they get into a vehicle.
“Just like brushing your teeth,” she said. “It only takes one time for a tragedy to happen.”
Friday’s “Click It or Ticket” event was held at the beginning of the nation’s big driving Memorial Day weekend at the start of summer. Also receiving a “Saved By the Belt” award, but not present, were Levi Colley and Emily Sattler.
The two were on Eckel Junction Road in Perrysburg when they were struck by a vehicle backing out of a driveway.
“The force was so great, they were overturned,” Wiechman said. But neither were thrown out. “We’re so grateful their belts held them in place.”