“Seat Belts Again”

It sometimes amazes me all the e-mails and comments in person I receive regarding the seat belt law. They never seem to end so I'll talk about this topic again.

First of all, once again, no, you do not have to wear a seat belt if you have a farm tag and are 13 or older. I have found some seem to enjoy asking troopers this question even though they know the answer. One man I knew well in the area I am from asked me that at least three times. That is, before he was ejected from a vehicle and killed in a roll-over. This law is ridiculous in my opinion but it is an exemption some chose to foolishly exercise. If you are the driver and have anyone under 13 in your vehicle not in a seat belt or safety seat if under five then you are subject to a nearly $200.00 fine for each child not restrained.

I hear it all. Many will tell me flat out they won't wear it in town because they are in and out so much. Rather than argue that hopeless case I'll say the following: I have seen many bad accidents, crippling injuries and deaths on residential streets in towns very little different than Boise City , Keyes and Felt. Those of you who make this argument forget there are people driving that are drunk, drugged, mad and some just plain stupid that you have no control over. If you think you can't be hurt because you have a large vehicle or are just on “a little ole residential street” you will likely someday be wishing you had buckled up. I can preach this sermon all day long but instead I will tell you what happened to me.

In August 2005 just two months before I moved to Cimarron County I was driving the patrol vehicle I still have down a “little ole' residential street” in Poteau, Oklahoma. Another trooper, partner and friend of mine was riding with me that day and on the passenger side. A young woman in a pickup, meaning no harm to us or anyone else, ran a stop sign at about 25 mph and broadsided my unit on the passenger side. I was lucky. I escaped with a a sore neck. My partner had to have reconstructive back surgery and was off work for over six months. Needless to say we were both wearing seat belts and both will tell you flat out our injuries were lessened by the seat belts. We didn't think it would happen to us either.......... We were just driving down the street on a hot summer day. Your life can be destroyed literally in the blink of an eye. If you don't want to wear your seatbelt you don't have to. Maybe the worst that will happen to you is you will get a ticket. If you are lucky. I like walking on my own and love living. I'll wear mine. It's a great habit.

Did you know that if you are traveling at 25 mph and someone meeting you is also at 25 mph and you have a head-on collision the closing speed is actually 50 mph??? That means you hit the steering column, dashboard, other occupants and/or windshield at 50 mph. Ever see a very pretty girl after her face had gone through or partially through a windshield ??? I have seen several. I know of one who committed suicide after plastic surgery couldn't fix the damage. I am getting older and uglier all the time but I don't intend to make it worse by wearing a mask of knives that used to be my windshield because I wasn't buckled up.

A couple of people have recently grumbled to me about my partner working seat belts in town. One man referred to myself and other troopers as “Gestapo” (Nazi) recently because of a seat belt ticket. I say “Oh well”. Maybe you will get aggravated and just give in and buckle up someday. I get a little aggravated sometimes but then I think of the few people in my career who have came to me after they had a bad accident and thanked me for the time I wrote them a twenty dollar seat belt ticket. Later, they were buckled up the day they didn't think it would happen to them!!!!! That makes a thousand gripes go away fast.......

Truly a troopers' perspective,

Trooper Duane Johnson #280

Oklahoma Highway Patrol