2012 Fiat 500 IIHS crash testingEnlarge Photo
If you ever seriously wreck a car, you never forget the experience.
And it may be the most effective way yet devised to burn into your brain how important seatbelts are to keeping you alive and reducing the injuries you sustain.
In 1985, I wrecked my 1979 Volkswagen Rabbit while driving a twisty road in San Francisco. I might not be writing this if I hadn't been wearing my seatbelt.
With houses only on one side and seven sweeping curves--six of them banked--the road winds down a mini-canyon and was one of my favorite places to wring out a car.
On a foggy evening with light drizzle just starting to fall, the road surface got greasy all of a sudden.
When the rear end of the Rabbit--a front-wheel drive car, remember--came around and I started to slide backwards at 40 mph, I knew I was in trouble.
For the record, the Rabbit had no airbags, as unimaginable as that may seem today.
It was a very slow experience. It's a cliche, but life really did flash in front of me.
My memory of the crash is a series of snapshot images:
(1) Is that the rear end losing grip?
(2) I'm sliding sideways on a downhill curve. Oh [deleted].
(3) I'm facing backwards.
(4) That was the left rear quarter hitting the rail. Hmmmmm.
(5) Still sliding backwards and sideways. I must have bounced off that rail.
(6) That's the right front hitting the rail on the other side of the road.
(7) We've stopped.
(8) I'm in a wrecked car on the crest of a blind curve.
(9) The driver's door won't open.
(10) I really hope no one hits me.
(11) Do I have to kick this door open?
(12) I can't brace myself because my seat frame broke and it's laying flat.
(13) It's open enough.
(14) I'm out.
(15) I'm standing on the side of the road. It's quiet.
(16) Everything hurts, but everything works.
(17) Now what?
Carl the Dummy from Chrysler's 'What's My AQ?' trivia gameEnlarge Photo
Once the cops came and pushed the car to the side of the road, I could examine it.
There was exactly ONE undamaged body panel: the right rear door.
The front of the car hit so hard that the transmission case attached to the engine cracked.
The car was a write-off; I walked away with a swollen hand from slamming into the window when the car hit the barrier.
I also had a diagonal purple seatbelt bruise across my chest, a lot of soreness, and a severe case of the shakes.
And THAT is Why. I. *ALWAYS* Wear. Seatbelts. And. Make. Everyone. In. My. Cars. Wear. Them. All. The. Time.