Category Archives: THINK! Seatbelts

Belt up or lose out

RISK. It’s an interesting word that we hear most days. It has numerous meanings, but it can generally be defined as a situation involving exposure to danger. There exists a mundane, everyday activity that most of us are exposed to which carries a fairly high degree of risk – driving.

In the four years that I have been investigating fatal road traffic collisions, I can readily recall a number of incidents where occupants of vehicles have failed to take a few seconds to fasten their seatbelts.  How long does it take, once you’re sat in a car, to pull the seatbelt down and fasten it – seconds?  I often wonder if people realise their mistake of not wearing a seatbelt having crashed and now making an intimate acquaintance with the windscreen. You’ll have to excuse my flippancy but I don’t comprehend why you would take the risk of being unrestrained during a collision. After all you can be the best driver in the world, but trust me when I say there are plenty of bad drivers out there.

To allow people to appreciate the forces involved in a collision, let me give you some perspective. How many (g)’s do you think we experience when skidding a car to a stop?…0.7g.  How many (g)’s do you think we experience when riding ‘Nemesis’ roller coaster?…4.2g’s. Now think about the forces being applied to your body on ‘Nemesis’ and think how many (g)’s you experience when colliding with a tree? 32g, that’s 8 times as much g-force. The force involved is quite staggering.

You’re involved in a crash, the noise alone is deafening. The vehicle is brought to an abrupt stop, but being unrestrained, you continue your journey. You separate from your seat and are projected forwards towards the steering wheel. Your head and torso travel over the steering wheel and your face punches through the windscreen. You clear the car and tumble through the air, and you know there’s only one way down.  At what point do they realise their mistake? That question again.

Part of my job is to determine if the seatbelt was in use at the time of a collision. There is a wealth of evidence available to me which assists with this determination. Some of that evidence consists of examining the windscreen in order to identify body tissue. I’m not being gory for the sake of it. I am trying to label a point. The point being; wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces the injury potential when involved in a collision. It takes seconds to fasten your seatbelt. Driving is probably the most high risk activity that we undertake, and yet people are prepared to take a chance. I personally would not leave it to chance. I’d rather take steps to try and avoid being ejected from a vehicle. It doesn’t matter what sort of image you try and present, by not wearing a seatbelt as the end result won’t be a pretty one.

Belt up or lose out!

PC James Thorne

Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit


A seatbelt saved my life

It was a Friday evening and we were all excited for the weekend. It was my then boyfriend’s birthday and we were eager to get home, get out and celebrate. A little too eager.

On our usual route home the railway crossing was closed. We sat there for ages waiting as we watched train after train go by and the barriers stay down. Our driver, my then boyfriend, was being very impatient. He started up the engine and turned around.

As we were driving back into the city our driver decided to show off a little bit, testing out his new ‘toy’ that he got for his birthday. I don’t know much about cars but I know this car was a Ford Zetec 16 valve injection. I had heard it said enough times.

I wasn’t paying much attention. The driver and our rear seat passenger were chatting away as I listened to the music blaring out the stereo. We had just got some new CD’s from our favourite bands and they had become our anthems for the summer.

Then all of a sudden the car hit the kerb. The driver had taken the s bend too quick and we’d clipped it. We were now on the other side of the road, who knows how, and our driver snatched at the wheel. We then took off, rolled in the air, and smashed down into the ground.

What happened next becomes a bit of a blur but I remember mud flying through the driver’s window.

The next thing I know I’m wedged in, upside down and covered in blood. I’m hanging, only an inch or so above the ground, by my seatbelt. The seatbelt that had just saved my life.

The car had taken off and landed on its passenger side, it then rolled five times down the grass verge, before coming to a standstill on its roof.

I was disorientated but I could hear people outside the car. I touched my face and it was sticky. My hair was in my face and it was all matted. I later found out I had three lacerations to my face that were pulsating blood.

The driver was desperately pulling at my door to try and free me while a passer-by was screaming that the car was leaking fuel.

I managed to unclip my seatbelt. I fell, not very far, onto the roof of the car and crawled along it before I clambered out of the driver’s door and collapsed onto the floor.

I have no idea how long I was there before a biker started talking to me. He informed me he was applying to be a paramedic and he looked me over. How lucky was I.

This was closely followed by the ambulance paramedics. They strapped me down to a back board and carried me into the ambulance. They feared I had back injuries. I was so so scared, but I was alive.

A full body x-ray, 60 stitches in my face and many hours later I discharged myself and went home.

My injuries were damaged ligaments between my bottom three vertebras, three scars on my face and a full body battering resulting in swollen limbs and bruises. My face was so swollen you couldn’t see my eyes. I looked like an alien. But I was alive. And didn’t receive one single broken bone.

Now 16 years later, almost to the day, I am so thankful to my parents for never allowing me to go anywhere without my seatbelt and instilling the importance of it into me. Many of my friends at that age didn’t wear one, but without a shadow of a doubt I’d be dead without it.