Think and drive

Missouri activists speak out on seat belt importance at WWU

WWU sophomore Jenny Parr “crashes” to a stop on the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Seat Belt Convincer, which emulates the force of a head-on collision at 5 mph.

WWU sophomore Jenny Parr “crashes” to a stop on the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Seat Belt Convincer, which emulates the force of a head-on collision at 5 mph. Photo by Dean Asher.

Three car accident survivors took a packed William Woods University library auditorium on an emotionally wild ride Tuesday in the hopes that others would drive more defensively behind the wheel.

They were there as part of ThinkFirst Missouri, an education and advocacy group dedicated to preventing traumatic injuries and promoting vehicular safety. The audience heard from Penny Lorenz, Chad Burton and Keller Colley as each shared their experiences as unbuckled or impaired drivers and passengers whose lives were changed permanently by injury.

“We go all over the state to promote ‘use your mind to protect your body,’” Lorenz said.

Lorenz started the presentation with a slide show on traumatic brain injury, spine injuries and statistics on car accidents and injuries. She explained that injuries are the leading cause of death for people aged 1-44 in America, with the group at highest risk between mid-teens and 20s.

The highest risk factors for serious car accidents are speeding and drowsy or distracted driving. Not wearing a seat belt significantly increases your chance of traumatic injury to the brain or spine.

Lorenz said the combination of airbags and no seat belt also increased your risk of spine damage, and most accidents involving texting while driving occurred while the driver was distracted for only three to five seconds.

“Not only are you risking your own life, but you’re risking the lives of other people with you or sharing the roads. You’re not going to like it if you do this to yourself, but it’s a whole other life sentence if you take someone else’s life.”

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