SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Fish or Cut Bait

Giving Thanks
By Bob Ciminel


November 20, 2006

As we drove south from Atlanta this past Thursday, traffic on I-75 was heavy. The right lane was filled with 18-wheelers, so my wife, who was driving, tended to stay in the far left lane. We took an exit and she bought a cup of coffee to help shake off the late afternoon drowsiness; I bought a bottle of soda because I planned on napping while she drove the 60 miles to Macon where I would take over.

As I dozed off in the passenger seat, everything seemed normal. A short distance north of Exit 193, I heard my wife say, "Oh, Bob!" and woke up to see the car moving toward the guard rail. And then, at 75 mph, we hit the guard rail and I thought, "This is going to be expensive!" as the left front fender crumpled and the headlight and parking light assembly flew off. I didn't realize that it was going to be a lot worse than expensive.

As the car bounced off the guard rail, my wife overcorrected and the car lurched into the middle lane, and then began fishtailing. One second we were heading for the ditch at the side of the highway, and the next second we would be heading back toward the guard rail. The car was completely out of control. And that's when I thought, "We're going to die!"

jpg car wreck

Photograph by Bob Ciminel

Things did not improve over the next few seconds as the car rolled over on to its roof and slid down the interstate. We finally stopped with my wife and me hanging upside down in our seat belts and our car flat on its back in the right hand lane - the truck lane. My wife was facing the oncoming traffic and watched as an 18-wheeler roared by her window, the wheels locked up and smoking as the driver swerved around us and over into the right hand emergency lane.

I looked at my wife and said, "I'm alright. Are you alright?" As we tried to orient ourselves and assess our situation, I immediately worried about fire - we had a full tank of gas. But the engine was off and I could not smell gasoline, so I thought, "I'll just wait and hope someone comes along soon and helps us out."

My wife said she could not release her seat belt. I couldn't reach the release button either, but someone opened her door - a young black man she recalled later - and asked if he could help. He told her he would have to lift her to release the seat belt, and was that okay with her. That was a no-brainer, so he unhooked her and helped her crawl out of the driver's side door.

I was able to release my seat belt and drop the six or so inches to the roof, and then I crawled out the driver's side. The bystanders were amazed that we were unhurt. I was amazed that we were alive. The car was totaled.

We walked away from what could have been a fatal accident because we had our seat belts fastened - the airbags never actuated. We were unhurt because we stayed in the car throughout the crash. Had either of us been ejected, as so often happens in rollover accidents, one of us would be attending a funeral this week instead of the annual oyster roast on St. Simons Island, which was our destination. (We were able to rent a car and continue our trip.)

And so, Dear Readers, as we approach this Thanksgiving Holiday my wife and I have much to be thankful for and we pray that those of you who travel our nation's highways this holiday remember to buckle up. Sure, seat belts can be uncomfortable and a pain in the neck and you hear all those urban legends about people being trapped in their seat belts after a crash. Well, here it is, straight from the horse's mouth at

"The false belief that it's safer not to wear a seat belt in case the vehicle catches fire persists despite the mountain of evidence countering it. Death by incineration or drowning accounts for less than one-tenth of one percent of motor-vehicle-related traumas. Most passengers who are ejected from vehicles die, and the majority of them are thrown through the windshield. The chances of injury from hitting the pavement, a fixed object, or a moving vehicle (including your own) are also much greater if you are not wearing a seat belt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says:

Most crash fatalities result from the force of impact or from being thrown from the vehicle, not from being trapped. All studies show you are much more likely to survive a crash if you are buckled in. Ejected occupants are four times as likely to be killed as those who remain inside.

Yes, but what if the unthinkable happens and the car catches fire or plunges into a river? Being restrained actually increases the chances of escape from burning or submerged vehicles. Those not harnassed in get knocked around during the accident, often resulting in unconsciousness. And an unconscious accident victim has no chance of getting out of a burning or rapidly sinking car."


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Fish or Cut Bait by Bob Ciminel

Bob Ciminel's articles may include satire and parody, and mix fact with fiction.
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference. Bob lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.  He is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
Contact Bob at

Bob Ciminel ©2001 - 2006
All Rights Reserved

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Ketchikan, Alaska