DEAR ABBY: May I please respond to the letter you printed on Oct. 29 from the seventh-grader whose stepmother refuses to wear a seat belt? I, too, was careless about using my belt when shoulder-strap seat belts were first available.
At the time, I worked for an insurance company, and one of the claims adjusters pointed out that when a car is going 55 miles per hour, the passengers are also going 55 miles per hour, and if "something" should suddenly stop the car, you are STILL going 55 miles per hour until the point of impact. Needless to say, I never failed to wear my seat belt after that. -- LORI IN ARNOLD, CALIF.
DEAR LORI: Thank you for the reminder. I hope the letters I am printing today will be a wake-up call to the careless and the stubborn. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: As a retired chief deputy coroner for Madison County, Indiana, it was my duty to investigate automobile fatalities. The No. 1 contributing cause of automobile deaths was and still is the deadly head-on collision. When two cars traveling 45 miles an hour are involved in a head-on collision, their total speed at impact is equal to 90 miles per hour. The victim is either thrown through the windshield or free of the car and killed instantly when the automobile crushes him.
Head-on collisions happen without warning: Another car crosses the median or center line, a tire blows out, someone was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The reason for buckling a seat belt is to prevent making contact with the windshield and to keep the passenger inside the vehicle. When this is done, your chances of survival are far greater if you're involved in a head-on auto accident. -- DONALD G. McGRANAHAN, VERO BEACH, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: I didn't buckle up either, until about 14 years ago. It took being in a serious car accident to convince me to always buckle up.
My injuries were numerous, including 90 stitches in my face. I have the scars as a daily reminder. To this day, I still have eye problems because my eyeball was pushed back upon impact. I had a fractured skull and a closed head injury, but fortunately, no permanent damage there. But I spent three weeks flat on my back.
How humbling it was to be carried to the tub to be bathed, and to be slid off the sofa and onto a bucket to go to the bathroom. I was not able to work for three months.
I admire that seventh-grader who wrote about his concern for his stepmother. As a stepmom myself, I would happily and cheerfully comply with a request to buckle my seat belt and count my blessings. -- LEARNED MY LESSON IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR ABBY: My accident happened when cars were built like Sherman tanks, and seat belts were not required by law. I was seated next to my husband, who was driving.
We were hit head-on by a drunk driver. I broke the windshield with my face, and I was stuck in it by a shard of glass up under my chin. Both my legs and hips were broken in numerous places from the impact and the seat being thrown forward, and I have required numerous surgeries since. If you think my experience will serve as a warning to others, please print it. -- MARJORIE H.
DEAR MARJORIE H.: Here's your letter. Now let's cross our fingers.