WARRANT OFFICER 1 JUSTIN JESUS
10th Combat Support Hospital
Fort Carson, Colo.
My dad always took the time to ensure his children were safe. As soon as he noticed one of us doing something wrong or unsafe, he let us know immediately so it didn’t become a bad habit. I remember one day when I unbuckled my seat belt just before we’d reached our house. My father heard the “click” from the back seat of our Nissan Sentra and asked what it was. From the tone of his voice, I knew I was in serious trouble.
He said, “Boy, you need to put that seat belt back on.” I argued that we were so close to home that I could actually see our house, but he didn’t bend. He told me it didn’t matter if we were 100 yards or 100 miles from our destination; seat belts stay on until we park. You’d think that would be a lesson I’d never forget. Unfortunately, I did.
Several years later, I was about eight months into my first deployment to Iraq, driving a pickup truck to drop off some tools. I was only driving about 100 feet on an improved road with a speed limit of 10 kilometers. Surely I didn’t need to put on my seat belt for such a short trip, right? Wrong!
As I slowed the pickup to cross over a speed bump, something told me to look at my rearview mirror. I was shocked to see another noncombat vehicle approaching with no signs of stopping. I grabbed hold of the steering wheel, braced for impact and then BAM! I was rear ended. My first thought was back to that day when my father scolded me for taking off my seat belt. I had just proven his point.
Once I realized I was OK, I got out of the pickup to check on the people in the other vehicle. They were also all right, but the front end of their vehicle was smashed. We were all lucky, and this accident reiterated my father’s seat belt lesson from years earlier. I was determined to never put myself in that situation again.
Fast forward 11 months, and I’m back in the States, partying at a house with a couple of friends. It was just after midnight when we climbed into our designated driver’s 2006 Mustang GT convertible to head home. Without even thinking about it, I immediately buckled up and settled in for the ride. A few miles down the road, I noticed the driver and front-seat passenger weren’t wearing their seat belts. I told them they both needed to buckle up. Of course they gave me a hard time, but eventually they took my advice because they knew it was right thing to do.
No more than five minutes later, as we neared an intersection traveling about 40 mph, we saw a car approaching in the oncoming lane. Just as we entered the intersection, the driver of the other vehicle turned left in front of us without yielding. We collided nearly head on.
The Mustang was totaled, but we were all alive. I only had minor bruises on my neck from the seat belt. The front passenger and driver suffered some injuries on their legs and heads. Had this accident happened just a few minutes earlier, they likely would have died. Later, they both thanked me for insisting they buckle up.
Whether you’re driving a combat vehicle or your privately owned ride, seat belts are a must. Make sure everyone else in the vehicle is buckled up too. After two close calls, I’m not afraid to tell someone that the vehicle doesn’t move until everyone puts on their seat belts. You should do the same. You might just save a life or two.