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  • By Jordan W. Charness

    Collisions are much scarier when they happen to someone that you know well. In this case, a car apparently came out of nowhere and smashed in to a car belonging to some friends of mine while they were stopped at a red light. The driver doesn’t actually remember the accident but his passenger remembers every microsecond of terror. I know these people and heard all about it directly from their lips.

    They are very safe drivers: they always buckle up before leaving the driveway and wear their seatbelts for even the shortest drives. They know that the reason most accidents happen within a few square kilometres of home is that most people do the majority of their driving in their own hometown and neighborhood.

    The experience of driving safely for over 40 years has taught them to be cautious and defensive drivers. She is a retired speech pathologist and he is rumored to have been a spy.

    While out for an afternoon drive to pick up some groceries they stopped at a red light. Just after the light turned green they waited a second or two before they continued on their journey. Unfortunately the driver who had a red light decided that he could beat the light and accelerate through it. To make matters worse he was speeding before he got to the intersection and by the time he sailed through the red light he was doing about 100 kilometres per hour.

    No one knows if he saw the other car before he slammed into it. He hit the car on the driver’s side just to the front of the drivers door. His car was big and heavy. Theirs was not. The passenger just had enough time to glimpse the car out of the corner of her eye and turned her head toward it. She did not have time enough to shut out a warning,…. not that it would have helped.

    The next moments were filled with the sounds of tearing metal and air bags exploding. One of the passenger’s most vivid memories is seeing this white cloud engulf her head. There was also a strange smell and powder that seemed to fill the interior of the car as the airbags inflated.

    Soon people were running to help them. A small fire was burning and someone ran to get a fire extinguisher to put it out. In trying to get the fire out the Good Samaritan had to break a few more windows and beat in part of the car. Once the fire was out the driver and his passenger were told not to move while others called 911 for rescue service. The police, fire and ambulance all arrived and it took the Jaws of Life machine to pull them from the wreckage.

    They were lucky to be alive and were transported to the nearest hospital. As it turned out they suffered broken ribs, broken arms and bruises and contusions but thankfully there was no interior bleeding. It will take them eight to ten weeks to recover.

    The driver of the car who hit them only suffered a broken finger. He is likely however to be charged with dangerous driving and possibly criminal negligence.

    There are several things we might learn from this tragedy. The first and most obvious is that seatbelts and air bags save lives. According to the police and the witnesses, there is no way that these people would have survived the crash without these two life-saving devices.

    New generation airbags installed in newer cars do an even better job than the ones installed in my friends’ car. They deploy better and with less force so they do less damage to the face while saving your life.

    Although the accident victims did suffer facial bruises and abrasions as a result of the airbag deployment the pain and suffering was much less than it would have been had their faces connected with the steering wheel and dashboard.

    There are some who have suggested that since airbags and seatbelts can cause damage in an accident that you should be able to disconnect them and opt out of this type of protection. The law however is absolutely clear that you are not allowed to disconnect seatbelts or other safety equipment from your car. Not only that but you must wear your seatbelts correctly or face a ticket and fine.

    Another important lesson that you can learn from this incident is the first hand knowledge that airbags do deploy with considerable force. Although it is legal I would strongly suggest that you do not allow anyone under the age of 12 to sit in the front seat of a car equipped with airbags. Although the age of 12 is a good rule of thumb, size and weight are probably better factors to consider.

    Driving is fun and incredibly useful in this day and age. It can also be very dangerous. Make sure that you use all the defensive tools that your car is equipped with to make sure that you have a fighting chance in any situation.

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