As I was reaching out my Envoy’s window, a dozen books balanced on my lap as I did my best to deposit each library book into the return slot, spine first, as the cold winter wind whipped my hair across my face. When the last book was set on the conveyor belt I let the metal door snap and pushed the car’s window button and said, as always, “Okay, everyone buckled?”
Seat belt safety is an obsession of mine. Before I ever put the car in drive, even if we’re stopping for just a moment, like the library book return, I ask the questions. I know this habit stems back to my airplane police career (aka flight attendant) when I cruised the cabin ensuring everyone had their lap belt on.
I can’t help it. I’m a safety geek to the extreme, and when it comes to my little darlings I’m overly cautious.
Only this time when I asked the kids didn’t respond with their usual exasperated sigh of, “Of course, mom…”
Nope. This time it was more of an, “Ummm…”
Sensing something was off I turned my head toward the back of the car only to see my nine-year-old son who was sitting awkwardly in the back seat on the passenger side staring at me with an “Ooops” look.
His seat belt was unbuckled and tightly lassoed around his waist.
“What happened? How did that happen?” I asked, my mind spinning. Just then I glance up to see another car pulling up behind us. I said, “Hang on.” Putting the car in drive, I pressed the gas and pulled into the library parking lot.
Upon parking, I turned around again and as he struggled with the belt I could see he wasn’t having any luck getting out. I jumped out of the car and ran around to his side of the car. The only thing I could figure by looking at it was he had pulled the shoulder strap down and under his legs then when trying to get out he unfastened the belt and lifted up, causing the belt to wrap around him.
We tried everything to get him out. He stood on the seat, stood on the car floor, turned and twisted hoping to at least get the belt low enough for him to step out. As I tried to assist we found the more he struggle, the tighter the seat belt got. I didn’t bother to pull the belt up and over his chest and head seeing how it would have to go over his neck and I wasn’t about to chance that.
Shaking my head, I said, “It’s time to visit the fire department.”
Truth be told, it crossed my mind to just drive home and use my heavy duty garden trimmers to cut him out. But 1.) I wanted to make an impression on him that seat belt safety is very serious. 2.) I was hoping that maybe there was some way to unlatch the belt without cutting it.
The first fire station I went to was very quiet. Despite banging on every door no one answered. Next, we tried a larger station that was always staffed, along with a receptionist. Sure enough, a firefighter named T.C. was available to help.
I opened the car door and upon seeing my boy’s predicament his response was, “Well, this is a new one. ”
He tried all of the same tactics we had already tried. There was no getting the “snap back” mechanism to relax as the belt was pulled out as far as it would go meaning there was no way the belt was going to budge from his waist. He was stuck and the only way to get him out was to cut the belt.
Moments later my boy was released. He took a big sigh of relief then asked how much trouble he was in.
To be honest, we didn’t punish him. It was an accident, but I did tell him he could help earn money to help pay for the new seat belt (still waiting for a quote on that expense). He rode home, buckled, in the middle seat next to his sister and has been since that day — what a joy that can be on grumpy day. We’ll be getting the belt replaced soon though.
Later that day I mentioned the incident on Facebook and had a number of responses and several people mentioned another mom who actually saved her child’s life when a car seat belt got wrapped around her daughter’s neck! Luckily, she her friend was able to retrieve scissors to cut the belt.
The lesson…no matter how many time you remind the kids about things like seat belt safety, they’re still kids and anything can happen. And this is all the more reason NOT to leave your children in the car unattended. The best message, carry scissors in your glove compartment. You never know when you might need them.