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Victims of North Yorkshire road accidents back new safety laws

[Tuesday 19 September 2006]

A FATHER whose son was killed because he wasn't wearing his seat belt and a girl whose life was saved because she belted up, are backing new laws tightening the use of safety belts and child car seats as new figures reveal that a quarter of adults in North Yorkshire do not wear a seat belt in the back seat.

Keith Houliston and Michelle Wheatley are backing North Yorkshire County Council's campaign to raise awareness of the change in the law on seat belts that came in to force yesterday (September 18).

car seats
Crash victims back car seat law

Keith's son, Neil, was just 17 when he was killed in a collision on Christmas Day. He was driving home to Thorpe Willoughby when he took a bend too quickly and collided head on with another car. Neil was killed instantly.

"At his inquest the coroner went as far as to say that if he had been wearing his seat belt he probably wouldn't have sustained nothing worse than whiplash injuries," explains Keith.

Michelle Wheatley, now 20, crashed her car into a tree next to a 40 foot drop into a quarry on the A162 Brotherton to Burton Salmon road. There is no doubt in her mind or the emergency services who rescued her that her life was saved because she was wearing a seat belt.

"I can't remember the accident. The police believe I swerved to avoid an animal and lost control of the car. The fire service had to fasten the car to the fire engine to stop it going over the edge of the quarry then cut off the back of the car to slide me out. I was a mess. I had fractured my forehead, the top of my head and the base of my skull, broken my eye sockets and my nose and jaw were both broken."

It took Michelle six months to recover but she has been left permanently deaf in her right ear and suffers with headaches. It also destroyed her dream to join the police.

Both Michelle and Keith are working with North Yorkshire County Council to promote the importance of wearing seat belts and welcome the new laws which tighten the regulations governing wearing seat belts and using child car seats.

The new law means that until a child reaches 135cms in height (approximately 4ft 5ins), they must continue to use a child car seat or booster.

North Yorkshire County Councillor Peter Sowray, Executive Member for Business and Environmental Services, explains: "As well as children being properly restrained, it's important to emphasise the importance of wearing a seat belt in the rear of a vehicle. While people do know they should wear a seat belt in the front seat, many don't realise how dangerous it is not to wear one in the back.

I was a mess...I had fractured my forehead, the top of my head and the base of my skull, broken my eye sockets and my nose and jaw were both broken

Michelle Wheatley - Crash survivor

"Recent monitoring checks outside schools in the county show 26% of adult passengers in the rear seats were not wearing a seat belt. In a crash at 30mph you will hit the front seat and anyone in it with of force between 30 and 60 times your own body weight. This could result in death or serious injury to you and the person in the front."

While Michelle is living testimony of the importance of belting up, Keith and his family are left with only pictures of Neil. "It's such a waste of life," Keith concludes.

Council road safety officers are distributing a height chart clearly marking the 135cms level to every school in the county so anyone who is in any doubt as to whether their child should be using a child car seat can check quickly and easily.

And anyone who would like a copy of the leaflet on the new law or any advice can contact North Yorkshire County Council on 01609 532616 or email roadsafety@northyorks.gov.uk

Further detailed information can be found on the Department for Transport Think! Website at www.thinkroadsafety.gov.uk

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