Teen learns seatbelts save lives

This article submitted by Aaron Ziemer on 7/14/99.

Fuchs car Nick Fuchs, rural Paynesville, can play baseball and work today, but he may consider himself lucky to be alive after he was involved in a one-car rollover accident on the morning of June 22, while on his way to work, because he was wearing his seat belt.

Fuchs was driving his family's four-door gold Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme when he fell asleep while driving to work at about seven in the morning.

Fuchs' car went across the road and off into the ditch before he awoke. He tried to turn the wheel, but before he could get back onto the road he hit a culvert and rolled the family car four times.

"I realized what was happening right before I began to roll," said Fuchs.

Fuchs escaped the wreck with minor injuries. He wore a neck brace for a couple of days and had some cuts on his fingers. The reason Fuchs was able to walk away from the accident was because he was wearing his seat belt.

"In a roll-over accident the driver would probably be ejected from the car without a seat belt on," said State Trooper Larry Alstead. "The driver would be in danger of the car landing on them."

"Without the seat belt I would probably be dead," said Fuchs.

Fuchs had just gotten his driver's license a little over one month ago. This is the first accident he has been involved in since getting his license.

He also said he was unsure of his speed because he had fallen asleep. Once he was asleep it may have caused him to put more pressure on the gas pedal causing the car to speed up.

This accident is a scary reminder as to what can happen anytime anyone gets behind the wheel of a car.

Many area teens have been involved in car accidents. Some of which have had unfortunate endings, but this one was different because Fuchs was wearing his seat belt.

"There would be a definite decrease in traffic fatalities if seat belts were used more frequently," said Alstead. "But there will still be some injuries and fatalities even with seat belts."

The state of Minnesota has a law that requires seat belt usage for anyone sitting in the front seat or anyone under the age of 11 anywhere in the automobile.

"Right now a driver can not be stopped for not wearing a seat belt," said Alstead. "The driver must be pulled over for a different moving traffic violation before they can be given a ticket for not wearing a seat belt."

Alstead would really like to see that law changed to make nonusage of a seat belt a primary stop.

"I would love to see that law changed for the safety factor," said Alstead.

Alstead also said the majority of accidents are caused by the under age 30 group of drivers, but he does not blame lack of experience for the accidents.

"A lot of the accidents are due to showing off, squealing tires, and things like that," said Alstead.

However, this was not the case in Fuchs' accident.

Fuchs has learned a valuable lesson that many area drivers could learn, and that lesson is, seat belts save lives.

Fuchs' accident isn't the first serious accident that area teens have been involved in, and it won't be the last, but everyone could learn from what happened to him.

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