Does Seat Belt Really Save?

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On Monday, the 12th of February, 2018, I had a very interesting discussion or better put, a fruitful recount of the number of people who were involved in road traffic crashes and died .These victims whose dreams and aspirations were cut short we concurred, could have been alive had they buckled up .During the discussion, I was compelled out of frustration to ask my colleague one of the most foolish question ever-does seat belt really save? It is that same question that I have chosen as my heading for this week’s piece. I am hoping that my choice of re-recounting the experiences of some victims which I had earlier used on this column will drive home my pains and frustration and also my desires to see every driver and passenger  buckled up  always  despite the  reservations  of some on the value of the seat belt.

Let me kick-start the gist first with the pathetic story, a very senior colleague of mine told me some years ago of a friend of his who died as a result of a brief error in judgement towards the seat-belt use. According to his story, his friend had gone out with a girlfriend on a certain Friday night. After some drinks, it was time to leave, and the friend obviously thought, and probably spoke it out loud, ‘well, it’s a Friday night, no pestering law enforcement agent on the road to jaw-jaw on seat-belt.’  Note that this man had hitherto been known to be highly compliant to the practice of belting up. But, unfortunately, this particular Friday took a different turn.  Even when his girlfriend advised him to use his belt, the man refused.  And so, tipsy, (outright drunk?) he engaged gear and drove off.  But the girlfriend, smart girl, decided to use her own seat belt. And that’s probably why she’s still alive. Because on approaching the big round-about by the Area 1 Junction in the FCT, the man had a crash and died. The girlfriend was alive to tell the story of what had transpired.

Tie this to another story involving a colleague’s brother-in-law, who is a military Officer. He had just rounded up from a late night assignment, and, obviously fatigued and sleepy, was driving home without using his seatbelt. On his way, somewhere in Lagos, he lost control, ran into a pavement, bounced back to hit a stationary vehicle, which acted as a wedge to finally stop him.  But not before the force had snapped his head forward to crash into the windscreen, with his chest hitting the steering.  Fortunately, he is still alive to tell the story by himself. 

There is also the story of the man whose tragedy I captured in a piece I titled , HOW I KILLED MY DAUGHTER. An excerpt reads thus,’’ sir, I killed my own daughter, my Jewel. It was my entire fault. She could have been alive today if I had insisted that she buckle up at the rear just like her mother and I did in the front seat. His self confession hit me real deep beneath my cord.

I barely managed to hold tears rolling down my cheek for fear that I might further break him down. I don’t have a daughter but I do have sons whom, like every parent I love dearly with my whole life .I know the pain of losing a loved one; the kind of pain I felt when I lost my parents and brother; I therefore can imagine the pain of losing your cherished daughter through your own fault.

 I listened captivated as he went on explaining how they set out on a journey to Ekiti from where they were billed to travel to Lagos for a Uk Visa. But every dream was cut short along this busy corridor where as they were driving at a speed he couldn’t tell, there was a tyre burst and the car somersaulted severally and threw his pearl off .When the car finally came to a stop, he told me, he came out and rushed to his daughter; Pamela who had sustained severe head injuries and died immediately.

Although, he continued his journey after, but it was without his ten year old daughter who from our few minutes discussion, he cherished and loved dearly. The second leg of the journey was done with him seated as a passenger as he was too heartbroken to drive. As they set out in a vehicle driven by his friend’s driver, all my thoughts were on the trauma and pain and regrets he will go though for years. How does a father forgive himself for causing the death of his lovely daughter? It will take only God to heal his wounds and make him live again for his other children if there are others and other members of his family. But as I ponder on this tragedy, the question I keep asking is why do parents toy with the safety and life of their wards? Why do parents drive above the speed limit when they have precious family members with them? I say so because I know that Pamela could have been alive maybe with some bruises or fractures if only the speed at which the vehicle was going was common sense speed based on the high traffic volume, and the fact that every family member was in that vehicle?  I pray that other parents who read though this piece will pause and ponder on how safety conscious they truly are especially when driving with their family in the vehicle. They should equally ask themselves why they play lip service to the use of seat belt by both front and rear seat passenger including the use of child restraints for children below twelve years.