SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Difference between life and death can be just a click away
by M.C. Kauffman


January 24, 2006
Tuesday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska - A piece of fabric can make the difference between walking away from an accident, being transported to a hospital, or worse - being transported to a morgue. Do you hear that life-saving click of your seat belt before you crank up that magnificently powerful machine and head out to work, the grocery store, cruising with your pals, or perhaps a special event?

Fortunately, the driver and occupants involved in the accident along the snowy North Tongass Highway Monday made a good choice and took the time to buckle up. Chief Dave Hull of the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department said the occupants escaped uninjured because of using seat belts. The Jeep Cherokee, driven by Nicole Hill (21) of Ketchikan, lost control, entered the ditch, and collided with the embankment. Damage is estimated at $10,000. All people in the the vehicle were wearing their seat belts.

jpg wreck - seat belts

The driver escaped uninjured from this wreck at approximately
Mile 13 North Tongass Highway, because of using a seat belt.
Photograph courtesy Chief Dave Hull;
North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department.

Also on Monday Troopers responded to a motor vehicle collision at North Tongass and D-1 Loop. The investigation revealed that a Suburu Legacy, driven by Kristen Flora (42) of Ketchikan, slid off of the road and collided with a stump in the ditch. Damage was estimated at $4000. All parties in the vehicle were not injured and were wearing their seat belts.

Another accident early Saturday morning tells a much different story - one of poor choices and injuries. In the early morning hours, Ketchikan-based Troopers responded to an area around 6.9 Mile North Tongass after receiving a report of a vehicle collision with injuries to the four occupants. The Troopers' investigation revealed that none of the four young teenagers, ranging in age from 17 to 19, were wearing seat belts -- and that allegedly "alcohol appeared to have been a substantial factor in the cause of the crash". According to Troopers, the driver Gregory Bachant, age 19 of Ketchikan, was traveling south on North Tongass Highway near the intersection of Ward Lake Road when he lost control and his vehicle left the highway and impacted a rock wall. And there are more stories.

While seat belts do occasionally contribute to serious injury or death, nearly all safety experts agree that buckling up dramatically increases your chances of surviving an accident. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts reduce the risk of death for a front seat car occupant by about 50 percent.

It might be shocking to know that crashes are listed as the leading cause of death in the United States for ages 3 to 33. Officials say seat belts can prevent death in about half of these accidents. If you know this, and know that Alaska has a seat belt law, and are still not wearing a seat belt, you may need to ask yourself why not.

When you think about it, this is absolutely amazing. A piece of fabric can end up being the difference between life, a serious injury or death... and it's just a click away!

If you happen upon an accident, the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department suggests:

  • Do not place yourself in danger unnecessarily
  • Call 911 immediately
  • Pull your car completely off the road
  • Turn you emergency hazard lights on
  • Stay out of the road on a dark night
  • Be careful getting near an unstable car
  • Turn off the ignition if car is stable and not on fire
  • Don't move anyone in the car unless there is good reason to
  • Be prepared to guide emergency responders to the scene



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Ketchikan, Alaska