Travel and Exhaustion. Recipe for Disaster.

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Last week was spring break for the schools in our area.  Like thousands of others, Cathy and  Steve planned a family vacation with their two teenage sons.  They were excited about going on a spring break cruise and referred to it as their “vacation of a lifetime.”    They couldn’t have possibly known that their dream vacation would turn into such a nightmare.  After getting back to land, they found their car and proceeded to make the long drive home.   At some point, the 15 year old got behind the wheel so his parents could rest.   He lost control of the SUV when it swerved into the grassy median, but when he tried to pull it back onto the road, he overcompensated. The car flipped several times and his parents and brother were thrown from the car.    Only the driver was wearing a seat belt and he walked away from the accident.   The brother was pronounced dead at the hospital and both parents are in intensive care.

Everyone is trying to make sense of what happened while praying for the full recovery of this couple, and emotional healing for the family, but there are unanswered questions.

First big question:   Why was a 15 year old driving?    At some point we have to allow our children to graduate from the neighborhood to the highway, but as long as they have a learner’s permit, an adult must be in the car with them to supervise.   In this case, there were two adults, but if the purpose for his driving was that the parents were tired, or sleeping, then there was no adult supervision.

When planning your vacations, PLEASE allow for down time.  We all joke about needing a vacation after our vacation, or how we had to come back to work to rest after our vacation, but it’s so true.   Make sure you get the proper sleep so you CAN return home safely.   Common sense tells you that if you’re tired, pull over and sleep.   You’re as much of a danger behind the wheel if you’re asleep as if you’re drunk.  It’s always a good idea to have someone else in the car watching over the driver.   I keep an eye on my husband when he drives, and if I notice that he’s doing things to keep himself alert, then I suggest we pull over and rest for awhile.    Sometimes just a short nap in the car at a rest stop is enough to refresh you so you can keep going.    It might put you behind an extra 10-15 minutes, but it also might save your life.

Second big question:  Why weren’t they wearing their seatbelts?  The driver is the only one who walked away from the crash.   There is just no excuse for not wearing a seatbelt, and yet we have learned that this family rarely wore theirs.  In fact, the father has received two citations for not wearing his seatbelt.    I remember that Princess Diana wasn’t wearing a seatbelt when she was killed, and authorities said her death could have been avoided if she would have been wearing one.

This is a good time to share some seat belt, or safety belt statistics given by the Public Information Office of the Division of Motor Vehicles in Richmond, VA

One out of every five drivers will be involved in a traffic crash this year.   Hopefully you and your loved ones won’t be one of these five, but it’s not always your driving skill that determines the results.  Better to be proactive and do all you can to protect yourself.  Be sure to buckle up and pay attention.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among people age 44 and younger and the number one cause of head and spinal cord injury.    Pam underwent surgery yesterday to relieve the pressure in her brain, but she also has a broken neck and broken pelvis.  Mike is in an induced coma and the extent of his injuries is not yet known.

Of every 100 children who die in motor vehicle crashes at least 80 would survive if they were properly secured in an approved child safety seat or safety belts.      Parents, please be sure your children are belted.  The young boy in this accident might have survived if he’d been wearing a safety belt.

Approximately 35,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year. About 50 percent (17,000) of these people could be saved if they wore their safety belts.    You may sustain injuries, but you’ve got a much better chance of surviving if you’re wearing your safety belt.

More than 90 percent of all motorists believe safety belts are good idea, but less than 14 percent actually use them.    I don’t even put my car in gear without fastening my safety belt.  When my youngest daughter was taking driver’s ed, SHE was the one who insisted we all wear our belts.  She told me if I ever got killed because I wasn’t wearing my belt, she would never forgive me.  I hear her voice in my head whenever I think I might not click the belt just this one time.

Motorists are 25 times are more likely to be killed or seriously injured when they are “thrown clear” than when remain inside their vehicle.    We can see from this accident that the one person who was wearing a belt is the only one who stayed safe inside the vehicle.

Motorists can increase safety belt usage by example and verbal reminders. Nine out of 10 people buckle up when asked.    My children always do a seat belt check with the grandkids before they drive.  It’s a good idea to ask other adults, too.  Be the example!

Safety belt use is one of the best defenses against the unpredictable actions of the drunk driver.   We have a friend who was killed at 7 am by a drunk driver.   The drunks are not just out at midnight.  You have to always be prepared for the actions of others.

A common cause of death and injury to children in motor vehicles is being crushed by adults who are not wearing safety belts. One out of four serious injuries to passengers is caused by occupants being thrown into each other.

 About 80 percent of all injuries to children in car crashes are injuries to the head, causing brain damage, permanent disfigurement, epilepsy or death.

Three out of four families with child safety seats fail to use them correctly. Adults need to follow manufacturer’s instructions and secure seats properly before every trip

An estimated 80 percent of American children area immunized against contagious diseases, but less than 10 percent are properly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle.

See the full list here:

My heart goes out to this family and prayers are being said in their behalf.  It’s certainly not our place to criticize or judge their actions, but we can learn from them and do all we can to protect ourselves and our own families so that we might avoid such severe consequences.

In closing, there are 4 things I want you to remember:

  1. Never leave the house without saying, “I love you.”
  2. Once you get behind the wheel of your car, buckle up.
  3. Drive responsibly and be aware of your surroundings so that you can ACT instead of RE-ACT.
  4. Be the example and insist that others buckle up, too.


All They’ll Need To Know

All They'll Need To Know