Saved by the Belt

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Local woman honored for seatbelt use

By Tom Wilmoth

    On July 3 of last year Rachel Correll was on her way to work at Raintree Village when a car cut her off in the eastbound lane of  U.S. 460 just in front of the Virginia State Police office.

    “I just lost control,” Correll said of what happened next. Her 2004 Ford Trailblazer flipped over onto its roof. “I was still hanging upside down when (rescue) people got to me,” she said.

    But the seatbelt she had on, and that was holding onto her, likely saved her from serious injury.

    Last Tuesday, the city of Bedford Police Department and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) awarded the “Saved by the Belt” award to  Correll.  The “Saved by the Belt” award is a recognition program developed by the VACP to be used by law enforcement agencies to promote the benefits of seat belt use in passenger vehicles.  The award was presented during the city council meeting.

    Correll had been traveling in the left hand lane preparing to exit onto Blue Ridge Avenue to continue her route to work.  The driver of the vehicle traveling in the right hand lane and unfamiliar with the area made an abrupt lane change in front of  her and quickly reduced  speed to a near stop.  Correll had to make an evasive maneuver to avoid colliding with the other vehicle, but lost control of her vehicle and overturned several times in the median coming to a rest on the roof. 

    Correll was injured and had to be extricated by the Fire Department in order to be removed from the vehicle and transported to the hospital. 

    “If Ms. Correll had not taken the time to put her seatbelt on that morning, she would have been more seriously injured” says Jim Day, chief of the city of Bedford Police Department.  “The fact that she took a few seconds to put on her seat belt that morning quite possibly saved her life.  It is my understanding she was released from the hospital a couple of hours after the accident and has returned to work.”

    Correll said wearing a seatbelt has been instilled in her from her youth. Her mom had been in an accident, flipping six times, so the family knew the importance of buckling up.

    “You never know when it’s going to happen,” she said of an accident, adding that it’s not just your driving that you have to be concerned about. “Anyone can just cut you off,” she said. “You can be the best driver in the world.”

    During 2007, 1,012 people were killed as a result of motor vehicle crashes on Virginia’s roadways.  Fifty percent of those killed were not restrained.  Approximately 80 percent of passengers traveling Virginia’s roadways are using their seat belts.  It is the goal of law enforcement agencies across the state to reduce the number of fatalities through education and enforcement programs.

    To reduce your chances of being injured or killed as a result of a motor vehicle crash, the Bedford Police Department offers these tips:

Buckle up.  Children under the age of 16 are required by law to be restrained.  Children under the age of 8 must be restrained in an approved child passenger safety seat.

    Avoid distractions.  Limit dialing cell phones while driving.  Pull off the roadway to send text messages, change radio stations or change CD’s.

    Don’t drive while intoxicated.

    Obey posted speed limits.