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by Abigail Van Buren

Universal Press Syndicate

DEAR ABBY: On Sept. 12, 2000, our beautiful, blue-eyed 11-year-old daughter died from injuries she sustained in a car accident. With her seat belt fastened, she had the front passenger seat reclined to nap on the way home from school. Upon impact, she was thrown up to the seat belt and back down to the reclined seat. She suffered severe brain trauma.

Reclining the front seat is something people take for granted, and something we never realized was dangerous. We heard a doctor comment that severe injuries from being reclined are becoming more common. Commercials show how safe a car is while crash-test dummies are sitting upright with their seat belts fastened. Try to picture what that "dummy" would do if it was lying on its back without the support of a back seat. Without the back support, a sleeping person would be like a rag doll and would slide from under the lap belt, hitting the side of the car or the driver's seat. The only way airbags and seat belts can save you is if you're sitting with the seat upright and belts secured.

Since this tragedy, our families and friends have stopped this seemingly innocent but dangerous activity. Please get this message out to your readers; it may save a life. Thank you. -- JAMIE'S FAMILY, FLORISSANT, MO.

DEAR JAMIE'S FAMILY: What a horror story. Please accept my deepest sympathy for the tragic loss of your little girl.

I'm reminding readers of every age that the safest position for riding as a passenger in a moving vehicle is sitting upright, facing forward, with both feet on the floor and arms and hands inside. In the proper position, there is far less risk of neck injuries, scrapes, broken bones, crushed pelvises and brain injuries in a collision. Accidents can happen to anyone -- that's why they are called "accidents."

DEAR ABBY: I would like to respond to "Nancy's" comments on table manners. She said, "Remove your hat before sitting down at the table, including baseball caps." Sometimes a baseball cap might be more pleasant for others to look at than the scars it is hiding.

Six months ago, my son and three other crew members were in a C-130, fighting fires in France, when the plane crashed. Two were killed. My son and another young man survived when they were blown out of the plane on impact. They were in intensive care for quite some time.

In spite of very bad scars, they both looked wonderful to us. However, when my son was well enough for us to take him out to dinner, he wore a baseball cap to hide his worst scars, which were on his head.

You can believe I was proud to be sitting at the table with him -- cap included! I'm hopeful that after some plastic surgery, the cap will no longer be necessary. -- A HAPPY MOM IN TENNESSEE

DEAR HAPPY MOM: I am so glad to learn your son survived such a terrible accident and is on the road to recovery.

In most circumstances, men wear baseball caps because they think it's "cool" or they are having a bad hair day or have no hair at all. It would benefit all of us to refrain from judging those who wear caps indoors -- there may be, as in your son's case, a legitimate reason.

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