By Maggie Collett
Three seconds isn’t a lot of time when it comes to most things. But it can make a huge difference when you use that fraction of time to put on your seat belt.
Phillip Lynch, patrolman for the Winfield Police Department, said, “You are required to have your seat belt on any time you are operating a vehicle.” Passengers are also required wear seat belts.
Lynch said Kansas has a primary seat belt law which allows officers to pull drivers over for the sole purpose of not wearing a seat belt. The penalty adds up quickly.
“There is a $30 fine for no seat belt,” said Lynch. That may not seem like much, but drivers are also required to pay court costs. “Court costs are $93.50.”
Although fines and hefty court costs are meant to encourage people to buckle up more often, some drivers still choose to be on the road without a seat belt. In the case of an accident, not wearing a seat belt could result in a lot worse than a loss of some cash.
Patrick Ramirez, Winfield Fire Department engineer and EMT, said wearing seat belts can pay off.
“Seat belts do more good than harm,” said Ramirez.
People sometimes are of the mindset that seat belts are confining and they would rather be “thrown free” of the accident. Ramirez pointed out that it’s not smooth sailing.
“When you think about being ejected and being thrown free of the vehicle, you have to go through the glass, probably head first, which is going to do a lot of damage. And then you’re going to hit the ground, skid on the ground, and then you have to hit something else to stop,” said Ramirez.
Even if the driver is not ejected from the vehicle, injuries can still be numerous without the use of seat belts. The faster the rate of speed, the worse the injuries can be.
“When your body moves forward your feet can get stuck up under the pedals, your knees can hit the dash, your head can hit the glass,” said Ramirez.
As an EMT, Ramirez estimated that they work an average of five wrecks per month. One wreck in particular has stuck with him. It was a rollover accident in which one of the occupants had been partially ejected through the sunroof of the vehicle.
“The car was laying on the top of him that was out[side of the vehicle],” said Ramirez.
One student found seat belts can make a difference. Inger Furholt, convergent journalism senior, was riding in the back seat of a car on April 3, 2010 in Dallas, when the driver switched lanes.
“A car hit us from behind and then we rolled over and then all our lights went out so we got hit by another car,” said Furholt. “The last thing I remember is laying my head down and then I woke up in the hospital.”
Furholt was thrown from the car. She sustained numerous injuries from the crash.
“I shattered my femur, punctured my liver, and I got a concussion, broke my collarbone and split open my forehead,” said Furholt.
The broken collarbone and some bruising indicated that Furholt had been wearing her seat belt during the first collision, but that she probably removed it before the second car hit.
Following the wreck, Furholt was on crutches for five months and attended rehab sessions. She was cleared Dec. 29, 2010. Furholt is thankful that she was wearing her seat belt for a portion of the wreck.
“I probably wouldn’t be alive right now if I hadn’t been wearing my seat belt the first time we got hit,” said Furholt.
Ramirez said, “Always remember to wear seat belts. Make it a habit.”
Maggie Collett is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.