Why I wear a seatbelt



by Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
421st Air Base Group Public Affairs


8/9/2010 - RAF MENWITH HILL, United Kingdom -- It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun was beginning to set behind the Blue Ridge mountain range and the air was crisp with a February cold on this Valentine's Day. I had worked a full 10-hour day at my primary job, visited my girlfriend for an hour and then was heading to my second job which was only 15 miles away. As I said goodbye to my girlfriend, little did I know this would be the afternoon that would change my life forever.

You see, I was one of those children who always heard what my parents had to say but chose when to listen. When Mom told me to never take my baby brother down to our pond because he might drown, I didn't listen and took him down there anyway. When Dad told me to unload the suitcases from our vacation trip, I didn't listen and instead argued that it wasn't my turn. Finally, when Mom continually told me to put on my seatbelt, I didn't listen and would do everything in my power to take it off when she was not looking.

However, in time we all mature and begin to understand what our parents are telling us is for our own good or the good of others and we begin to do what they ask of us, as I did with starting to always wear my seatbelt.

That afternoon as I was driving to my second job, I fell asleep behind the wheel of my 1988 Pontiac Grand Am. As I woke up and realized I was heading off the side of the road, I did what most of us would do and overcorrected. When I did, my car careened over six lanes of traffic and I hit a tractor trailer head on.

As both of our vehicles were traveling at a rate of 60 miles per hour, the impact of my car bounced his trailer into the air, which came crashing down onto the front of my car. The momentum of his truck pushed the body of my car backwards, the engine crumpled underneath his tires and the entire dash went straight in toward my body. His vehicle continued to move forward until my vehicle came out from under it and then my car went into three 360 degree spins until if finally came to a stop.

The first witnesses on the scene were off-duty paramedics who thought for sure I had perished. However, because my mom had always told me to wear my seatbelt and I had learned to do it rather than argue with her, I am here today to tell this story. My car did not have front or side airbags but it did have a seatbelt.

That seatbelt saved my life. Because I had hit my head on the roof of the car, I was transported by helicopter to the local trauma hospital. However, within two days I was out and within two weeks I was back to work. My only injuries were a bump to the head, some damage to my knees from hitting the dash and a bruise across my chest and stomach from the seatbelt.

The Air Force governs that all servicemembers wear seatbelts and anyone driving on an Air Force installation and their passengers are also required to wear seatbelts. Seatbelts save lives and I am living proof. Too many times we see our friends, our family and our coworkers putting their seatbelts on as they approach the gate, only to take them off as they leave. Too many times we ride around with someone off base and that person does not wear their seatbelt. As Wingmen, as mature adults and as something we should do, it is all of our responsibilities to ensure everyone wears a seatbelt.

That Valentine's Day changed my life forever. I wear my seatbelt no matter where I am going, even if it is only to run a quick errand. I insist every member of my family does the same and any time anyone rides with me they must wear their seatbelt. I encourage everyone to wear their seatbelts all the time. Don't be like me and wait until something tragic almost happens before it sinks in.