Putting on a seat belt takes three seconds, but those three seconds can mean the difference between life or death.
Twin brothers Justin and Jacob Rettig, who are juniors at Napoleon High School, shared their story Wednesday with their classmates about a traffic crash they were involved in around four months ago.
Justin was driving home with his brother as his passenger when he fell asleep, waking up in time to swerve and avoid a guardrail but then losing control of the car and crashing, leaving him with his neck broken in two places.
“Luckily I was wearing my seat belt because if I wasn’t, this could have been a totally different story,” Justin said, adding he is thankful his brother survived the crash and noting that, if he didn’t, that’s something he would have had to live with for the rest of his life. “Yes, I did get some broken bones out of it and it did end part of (my) swimming season, which was hard.”
But Justin said he has next year’s season to look forward to — as well as numerous other opportunities he might not have if he was not wearing his seat belt.
“At least I have the opportunity to go to college, marry a girl, have children and all of the other things that make up life,” Justin said. “... It was my choice to wear a seat belt, I’m still here today, hopefully making an impact on you guys in order to make good choices so you’ll still be here tomorrow.”
Jacob also said, as a passenger, it’s their job to ensure the driver is awake, sober and alert because it’s their lives that are in the balance as well.
“You have to trust the driver and there are so many things that can go wrong,” Jacob said, adding the driver sets an example in their vehicle by choosing to wear a seat belt — or not wear one. “You have to remember — your seat belt is there to protect you, so make sure you keep yours buckled up.”
“Please understand, they’re here because of seat belts, period,” added Napoleon Police Chief David Mack.
The assembly was attended by ninth through 12th graders at Napoleon High School and was organized by the Henry County Safe Communities Coalition in preparation for the Click It Or Ticket campaign, which is May 20-June 2.
Members of the coalition monitored the student parking lot Wednesday morning to calculate the number of drivers who were wearing their seat belts as they arrived at school.
That number was 81.6 percent, as revealed by Tante Lovins, health educator at the Henry County Health Department, during the assembly. That’s lower than the Henry County average of 91.3 percent.
“We have some work to do,” Lovins said.
Lovins added nearly 15,000 lives were saved in 2017 across the country through the use of seat belts.
“In 2019, the lives of Justin and Jacob Rettig were saved by a seat belt,” Lovins said. “It took three seconds for them to reach around their shoulders, grab that belt and buckle up. Three seconds to make a life-altering decision. Three seconds is the reason they’re standing here today. Three seconds is the reason they’re walking the halls with you every day. Three seconds is why they’ll walk across the same stage as the Class of 2020 next year at this time as a high school graduates. Three seconds is all it took to change their story.
“Three seconds is all we’re asking of you — you have the power to change and write your story. Three seconds to buckle that seat belt.”