May 14

The wonders of a seatbelt…and the anxiety of a father of a soon-to-be-driver

So I’m sitting at my writing nook (dining room table) today. It’s overcast, a little drizzly. I hear a screech of tires – usually no big deal, there’s an intersection behind our house and someone’s always slamming on their brakes. However, this screech was longer than usual, so I look up to see a Toyota pickup sliding sideways down the street behind my house, and before I could even say “holy %&$*”, the truck hit the curb, popped into the air, and flipped onto its roof, just like you’d see in a movie.

Here’s the end result, sitting on my berm:

Two sisters, 18 & 15, were crawling out the side window as my sons and I ran up, not a scratch on them. Both were wearing seatbelts – without them, flailing limbs (and heads) could have been sticking out of a window, with nasty possibilities.

So these girls were unlucky, then lucky, but at least they were smart. I had a long talk with my kids, the oldest less than two years away from getting his license. Seatbelts were mentioned more than once.

Any of you with teens, feel free to pass on these pics. This could have been a whole lot worse.

About the author

Steve Umstead

Steve Umstead has been the owner of a Caribbean & Mexico travel company for the past ten+ years, but never forgot his lifelong dream of becoming an author. After a successful stab at National Novel Writing Month, he decided to pursue his dream more vigorously…but hasn’t given up the traveling.
Steve lives in scenic (tongue-in-cheek) New Jersey with his wife, two kids, and several bookshelves full of other authors’ science fiction novels. Gabriel’s Redemption was his debut novel, published in February of 2011.


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  1. shayfabbro

    WOW!!! They are both very lucky and thank goodness the seat belt talk worked with those two! :)

  2. Steve Umstead

    The two girls are petrified (and embarrassed apparently), so like I told my kids – I had an accident at 17 I can still remember frame by frame to this day. Terribly way to learn a lesson, but hopefully this view from the outside right in front of them works just as well (since I’d rather my kids NOT get in an accident to learn a lesson).

  3. S. M. Nonnemacher

    My mom had a bad accident when she was 20. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt (it was 1979), but I was safely strapped into my car seat in the back seat. I didn’t have a scratch on me, but she flew through the windshield and was lucky to survive. Needless to say, the importance of seat belts was stressed over and over as I grew up. I not only always wear my seat belt, I refuse to take my car out of park until everyone in the car also “buckles up.” (And there are family members I don’t allow into my car because they absolutely refuse to wear them.) This is a great reminder of why it is so important! Thanks, Steve! :-)

  4. Steve

    Isn’t it compulsory to wear seat belts were you live? In the UK failure to wear a seat belt can result in a fixed penalty fine of £60 (about $95) or in certain circumstances a find of up to £500 (about $796). The number of deaths in car accidents has certainly fallen since they were made compulsory. They certainly saved my wife’s life when she was rear ended in her Smart car whilst sat in a motorway hold up ironically caused by another accident.

    1. Steve Umstead

      Yes, 100% mandatory in every US state, but not everyone follows the rules. Still huge # of people don’t; luckily these two girls did (and will for the rest of their lives, I’m sure).

      Every time I see a Smart car I think, “How smart would it be if it was hit by a truck?” Those tiny little things worry me…

      1. Steve

        Smart Cars are tougher than they look. See was hit at about 60mph and shunted into the car in front. The Tridion safety cage/shell wasn’t even deformed. The body panels at the back were broken but the passenger compartment was untouched. The accident investigator was so impressed with the car that he recommended that his wife buy herself one.

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