Crash survivors testify to life-saving benefits of seat belts

Darlene Root can attest to the fact that a seat belts save lives. Hers is one that was saved.

Root has shared her story through radio and television ads as part of a May “Click It, Don’t Risk It!” campaign designed to convince more Idahoans to buckle up.

Darlene, her daughter, son-in-law and 2-year-old grandson were on a family trip when they realized firsthand the value of wearing seatbelts.

Daughter Jennie was at the wheel. As she attempted to pass another vehicle on a two-lane highway, she felt the steering wheel begin to shake. Within seconds she lost complete control of the vehicle. The car rolled 3-1/2 times before coming to a stop.

Just minutes before the accident, Darlene noticed that her son-in-law Blake was not wearing his seatbelt. But she decided not to mention it.

“I didn’t want to be the stereotypical nagging mother-in-law,” she recalls.

Shortly after they had crossed from Nevada into Oregon, he decided to fasten his seatbelt after seeing a “Click It or Ticket” sign along the highway. It was a life-saving decision.

“I don’t even want to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t seen that sign and fastened my seatbelt,” Blake confesses. “This was a huge wake-up call. I’m very lucky to be alive.”

Everyone walked away from the crash with minor injuries except for Darlene, who was still trapped in the back seat of the car. Emergency personnel carefully pulled her from the vehicle. She was then taken by Life Flight to St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise and treated for breathing difficulties, a fractured vertebrae and bruises on her head.

“Buckling up remains the single-best defense against serious injury or death for you and your passengers, if you’re involved in a crash,” says Mary Hunter, Idaho Office of Traffic and Highway Safety. “The Roots are living proof that.”

On average, five Idahoans are either killed or seriously injured every day in traffic crashes. In 2002, 62 percent of the 216 people who died in Idaho motor vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts, according to OTHS officials.

NHTSA estimates that half of those killed would have lived had they been wearing safety restraints.