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Never Leave Safety to Chance

Never Leave Safety to Chance


Many of us will hit the road this holiday season to spend time with family and friends. While you’re planning for the good times, don’t forget to plan for a safe road trip too.

A few years ago, my family and I took off from Fort Stewart, Georgia, to spend Thanksgiving at my parents’ home in Florida. We’d made the four-hour drive dozens of times, and everything had become automatic. We knew the route, speed limits and construction zones.

I was feeling pretty miserable, so I was in the front passenger seat. I reclined the seat, opting to not wear my seat belt for the sake of comfort, and drifted off to sleep. I woke up two hours later to the sound of car horns blaring as we slowed down on Interstate 295 near Jacksonville, Florida. We’d encountered dense traffic and rain — a deadly combination. I had an overwhelming urge to put on my seat belt and did so. Less than five minutes later, we were doing at least 40 mph when we skidded into the back of a tractor-trailer. As we were skidding, I felt utterly helpless and I remember yelling, “Brace yourself!”

Time seemed to move slowly during the impact, and I was acutely aware of each detail. I felt small ripples and vibrations as the hood buckled. Suddenly, we came to a violent stop. The air bags deployed, hitting my face hard enough to momentarily knock me unconscious. When I awoke, white powder from the air bags was everywhere. Most importantly, though, the seat belt worked and kept me from being thrown into the windshield or ejected forward between the car and the trailer.

Physically, I suffered only bruised ribs and a totaled car, while my wife had only minor scratches to her hands. My then 9-month-old daughter — who was sleeping in the backseat in her properly installed, rearward-facing car seat — was uninjured. The next day, which happened to be Thanksgiving, we sat at the dining room table and said a prayer of thanks that we were alive and not planning a funeral.

When I tell this story, many say it’s a miracle I’m still here. Certainly, if I hadn’t buckled my belt when I did, I wouldn’t have survived. How many people are fortunate enough to get the chance to put on their seat belts just before they need them?

I’m not going to count on being that lucky twice in this life. Now, when I take a road trip, I count on everything I have — not just my air bags, but also my seat belts — to protect me should there be a next time. Some things are too important to leave to chance.


According to Army Regulation 385-10, The Army Safety Program, 11–4, Safe motor vehicle operations:

(3) Occupant protective devices will be worn by all Soldiers driving or riding in a PMV whether on or off the installation.

(7) According to AR 600–8–4, investigating officers may consider failure to use occupant protection devices, to wear required protective equipment, or to comply with licensing or operator training requirements in making line-of-duty determinations for death or injuries resulting from such nonuse of equipment or noncompliance with requirements.

  • 12 November 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 160
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-4