It is human nature to look back and wonder what we could have done differently. Even when it is clear that another driver caused the accident, injured victims consider their own actions and wonder if leaving a few minutes earlier or deciding to take a different route would have prevented the crash.
The truth is we can never know what might have resulted from a different choice; we only have the present. There are, however, a few choices that we know make a big difference and can help keep people safe. Seatbelt use is one such choice. No one ever regrets wearing a seatbelt, but we see many injured victims who regret not wearing one and many grieving families who wish they'd reminded a loved one to buckle up.
Northwest Florida Daily News reported on a serious accident that brought 2012 to a tragic end for two individuals and their families. Lesie Hornback, a 48 year old Santa Rosa Beach resident, was driving east on U.S. 98 in Okaloosa County during the early hours of December 30. He was in the area east of Pier Road when his Ford SUV veered off the roadway onto the gravel shoulder. Hornback over-corrected while trying to steer back onto the road, causing the vehicle to spin out and overturn.
Both Hornback and his unidentified female passenger were thrown from the SUV. Emergency responders transported the passenger to Fort Walton Beach Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. Hornback suffered serious injuries and was flown to Sacred Heart Hospital. He lost a limb in the accident. Police said that the accident did not involve alcohol and that charges are pending further investigation. Reports also indicate that neither occupant of the SUV was wearing a seatbelt.
Citing research by the National Highway Traffic Safety, the National Safety Council states that "[s]eatbelts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury." The statistics are compelling, indicating that seatbelt use reduces the risk of injury in a crash by 50 percent. Seatbelt use prevented 75,000 deaths between 2004 and 2008. Safety campaigns helped raise average usage rates nationwide from 69% in 1998 to 88% in 2009. However, there's a lot of room to improve. Studies suggest raising the usage rate to 90% nationwide would save 1,600 lives and prevent 22,000 injuries in a single year
While Sunday's crash involved a single car, we often speak to victims of multi-car accidents about seatbelt issues. The fact that someone did not wear a seatbelt does not, in any way, make it okay for another driver to carelessly or negligently cause an accident. The law understands that victims are imperfect. Courts do take the victim's behavior into account, especially in deciding the amount of a damages award. However, imperfect victims can still recover in civil court. If someone else's negligence caused an accident, even if you have regrets about your own choices, call us.