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Seatbelts Save Lives

Woke up this morning to this headline in the Boston Herald….Eight killed in wrecks before dawn

For anyone who knows me, inexplicably, I am a huge NASCAR fan. I watch the race, the minor league races, the talk shows, I even read websites about it. I have often joked that I would pick going to the Daytona 500 over most any other sporting event.

To make this more of a conundrum, I barely know which side of the screwdriver to hold, never mind having any knowledge of cars. It is the science of the sport that absolutely fascinates me and today’s post is about the safety side.

When I went to bed last night, at the conclusion of the NASCAR race from Daytona, Kyle Busch, one of the sports biggest stars, had just got turned into the wall at 180+ MPH. His car then spun, was struck from behind, spun again and was hit even harder on the drivers side door. Again all of this at 180+ MPH. His car was totally destroyed. A few weeks prior to that Carl Edwards, another huge star, got hit, spun, hit again, his car went into the air, flipped, hit a fence before finally landing on the track. Again his car was totally destroyed.

What a car looks like after getting hit at 180 MPH

What a car looks like after getting hit at 180 MPH

The common theme in these two 180+ MPH wrecks is that both drivers walked away. Carl Edwards even made a big show of jogging across the finish line, not 15 seconds after his car stopped.

How is it possible that these two guys walk away from their wrecks, yet 8 people were killed last night, July 4th, in wrecks where people weren’t going near half their speed?

After I read the headline of the article, I found this later in the piece…”A common thread in the tragic, predawn carnage was that none of the drivers or passengers in the deadliest accidents in Walpole and Attleboro were wearing safety belts while driving at high speeds.

When a NASCAR driver gets behind the wheel, he does so knowing that this race could be his last. The possibility of death stares him right in the face.  In order to give these drivers a much better chance to survive these crashes a complex safety system is used.  The drivers are basically strapped into their seats.  Trust me when I tell you this, there is not much wiggle room.  There is a 5 point seat-belt and even their helmets are attached to the seat.  A window netting is also included to prevent arms from coming outside of the car.

When a young driver gets behind the wheel, I suspect they are more pre occupied with how they look in the car versus how safe they are.  No wonder parents can’t sleep when their kids are out late.

The safety devices available to a driver pale in comparison to what you would find in a typical NASCAR car, however, since the speeds are hopefully only 1/3 of what they will drive, they are more than sufficient if used properly.

There are 4 key points to safety within the car:

  1. Seat-belt
  2. Airbag
  3. Seat
  4. ABS

Seat-belt.  To not wear your seat-belt is shear idiocy.  There is absolutely no excuse.  Plainly stated the seat-belt will keep you in the car.  It will also keep you in your seat and off the steering wheel or windshield.  You must use the lap and shoulder belts.  This point is not open for debate.

Airbag.  If you strike something hard enough the airbag will deploy.  While this will make a sound and you will smell something odd, these are very effective at keeping your head off the windshield and steering wheel.  Word of caution, short people need to sit as far from the steering wheel as possible, maybe even consider getting pedal extenders.  Same for pregnant women, you don’t want the airbag striking you with too much force, it is best to sit as far back as you can.

Seats.  The seat is designed to absorb the energy if you crash.  In order for it to work properly, you must have the seat as upright as possible and have your head no more than 1 inch from the headrest.  The headrest should also be high up enough so your entire head touches it, don’t just leave it on the seat.  Riding like the gangsta with the seat all the way back and you leaning forward has to end.

ABS.  These are standard on most cars today.  These brakes will allow you to continue steering in the case where you need to stop quickly.  One note of caution, these brakes only work if you keep the pedal depressed.  DO NOT pump these types of brakes.  When you have these brakes all the way pressed down, sometimes they will vibrate or pulse, that means they are doing their job, don’t let up.  If the car that you are looking at buying does not come with ABS, please consider another model.  If you must choose between the moon roof and the ABS, please choose the ABS.

If you know you are going to get in an accident there are a couple of things you can do to try and lessen the imapct of the crash.  Begin by forcing your head against the head rest, while looking straight.  The second thing you can do is tense for the crash, this goes against the old advice of staying loose.  Lastly, if you are in a postion to try and avoid the accident, focus on where you want to go.  If you want to stay on the road and avoid the trees, focus on the road and do your best to ignore the trees.  You will be shocked at how effective this is.

Hey wait, that sounds like life advice also, focus on where you want to go…………

Your state of mind may be the most important tool in your arsenal of safety.  Driving while drinking, under the influence of drugs, tired, angry, or now dialing/talking on the cell and texting is severly limiting your chances of staying out of an accident.  Changing the radio station and eating are also distractions that you must be very careful with.

If you do get in an accident please check in with your doctor right away.  If the accident is bad enough a trip to the ER is a good idea for a set of x-rays.  In most cases you will not need a neck brace, those have been shown to increase scar tissue formation and actually slow down healing.

Lastly, please slow down.  Driving 50 on a road designed for 30 is going to get you in trouble.

If you have any questions you can always ask here through the comments or give me a call at the number above.

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