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Would you want your seat belt on?

It's likely you've either heard or perhaps even said, "It's not you, it's the other drivers I'm worried about." You've also likely heard, "The best offense is a good defense."

Your seat belt is just that. Not only is it our best defense against those "other drivers" sometimes it might even save us from ourselves when we make a mistake.

Take a few moments and watch this video, and tell me which one of these crashes, if you were were in any of the vehicles, would you be okay not wearing your seat belt.

It's clear that many of the people involved in these crashes were not at fault. They weren't doing anything wrong, but because the "other driver" was out of control, they became involuntarily involved in a crash. Hopefully, most people came out okay because they were wearing their seatbelt.

Let's say you are the driver of the car circled below. (10:47 minute mark of the above video) You are in the city and likely driving the 45 miles per hour speed limit on this road. That's a safe speed, isn't it? You can handle it. What could go wrong at 45 MPH?

I've probably watched this particular scene 25 times and I've gone frame by frame. Clearly the driver in the darker colored SUV is at fault for the accident. No question.

It's interesting to see how early the silver SUV begins to move to the left, but it's really interesting to see how close they get to the darker SUV before they hit their brakes. I wouldn't say that they must have been distracted, they just were not expecting the dark SUV to cross all the lanes and to the inside lane. They had plenty of time to brake and slow down instead of making the lane change, however, by not slowing down and only changing lanes, they drove right into a no way out and no win situation.

As a former police officer, I've investigated and took reports on thousands of crashes. I, just like most drivers, have also been in countless close calls. I don't consider the successful escape and evasions to be luck. I'm prepared for them. I expect them and I look out for them. In the above photo, the silver SUV hits a moment where they are no longer in control of the situation. I have to say that they put themselves in this situation. If they had slowed down instead of changing lanes, they could have avoided all of this. This wasn't an was a crash. Yes, the darker SUV was at fault but the silver SUV could have done a lot more to prevent it.

The cause? I believe was EGO. The silver SUV saw the darker SUV as evidenced by their lane change, however they were expecting the darker SUV to only take the center lane. The silver SUV was expecting to blow by the darker SUV while blowing their horn and "showing them" the close call they created. As if the silver SUV was saying, "Look, I would have hit you if it wasn't for my great driving skills as I swerve around you honking. Idiot."

Again, the darker SUV is at fault for the crash. Clearly they broke several traffic laws. No doubt. However, if the silver SUV would have just hit their brakes and stayed in the center lane, the darker SUV would have had the time to move into the inside lane and get out of the silver SUV's way. In other words, speed became a factor in this crash. Yes, even at 45 MPH (and it was likely only 35 MPH at the time of impact) the silver SUV failed to stop for a vehicle in front of them. If they would have slowed down by hitting their brakes, before they even entered the video, they would have had much more time and even ability to perhaps swerve to the right a little to miss the darker SUV.

The sign, several yards a head of the crash, indicates that the speed limit is 45. That is the upper limit. That doesn't mean that is the speed we should always be driving. Especially through a multi-lane intersection that appears to be all clear. Why, because people tend to enter the roadway when it all appears to be clear. Perhaps the darker SUV actually saw the silver SUV but figured it would have time to move to the inside lane before it made it there and totally misjudged it speed and the fact that it was going attempt to move to the inside lane also. This is why we are supposed to turn into the nearest available lane. The darker SUV would have prevented all of this, if they would have done just that.

The moral of the story. Pay attention, slow down, expect the unexpected, and above all else your seat belt is your best defense when everything else goes wrong.

You have the ability and capability to drive "In Control" and when you are "In Control" you can prevent yourself from becoming involved in many or most of the situations seen in the video above.

Thank you and Drive Safe Missoula.

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