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Safety features prevent accidents

Safety is no accident when you choose the latest safety technology, one expert found.
The next time you're contemplating buying a new car, give attention to the optional safety features available and consider this story of how they saved one man's life.

The man is David Cook. He's director of quality for a company that supplies safety restraints to automobile manufacturers. So, when choosing his own car, he made sure it included the most advanced safety systems.

"I made sure that my new vehicle had three critical items," Cook said.

• Side curtain airbags.

• Anti-whiplash seat system.

• Pretensioning seatbelts.

On Dec. 3, 2002, these devices would save his life.

There were four to five inches of snow on the ground and the edges of the divided highway were piled with plowed snow and ice.

Suddenly, a large tractor-trailer rig crossed the divided median and jackknifed as it came barreling toward Cook's car.

The trailer's rear wheels hit the side of the car. The front wheels rolled over the top of the car, shattering the sunroof and spewing glass down on Cook. Then the second set of tires rolled over the car and Cook's legs. His car then rolled over twice.

His left leg was severely injured and he was trapped. Emergency workers — who took over an hour to free him — were amazed he had survived at all.

His leg injuries required rehabilitation, but he had no back, neck or head injuries and not a mark on his face.

Cook believes he survived because, first, the side-curtain airbag fully protected his head as the truck struck the side of his car, and side-curtain airbags dropped down from the vehicle's roof just above the side windows and inflated in milliseconds to provide a cushion along the side of the interior.

Secondly, the anti-whiplash seat did its job. The force of the collision caused the seatback to deform backward and allow Cook to lie flat on his back. The roof ended up just inches from his nose.

"The side-curtain airbag and anti-whip-lash seat were the features that saved my life," Cook declared.

Cook said everyone has to educate themselves on the equipment in vehicles if they want to be protected.

Five years ago, Cook would not have survived his accident. The technology wasn't available yet.

"I'm glad to be here," Cook reflected.

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