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Hinderman: ‘Seat belts save lives’ not just a slogan

Paul Bogusz's 1999 HondCivic overturned Jan. 8 as he traveled eastbound Interstate 80-94 near Michigan City Ind.  |

Paul Bogusz's 1999 Honda Civic overturned Jan. 8 as he traveled eastbound on Interstate 80-94 near Michigan City, Ind. | Supplied photo by Paul Bogusz

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Updated: March 3, 2014 1:15PM



Please take a look at the photo accompanying my column today. It was taken Jan. 8 of a single-vehicle accident about 11 a.m. on eastbound Interstate 80 near Michigan City, Ind.

As you view the photo of the Honda Civic, some questions come to mind — who was involved in the accident? What happened? And, of course, was the driver injured?

The driver, Paul Bogusz, formerly of Tinley Park, now a Joliet resident, is fine.

“Physically, I am OK, and mentally I turned into some type of idiosyncratic safety advocate,” Bogusz said. “I think it looks more frightening than the actual experience. In a weird way, it felt “uncontrolled,” for lack of a better word. To me, not scary.”

He miraculously walked away from the wreck, and a few days later contacted me (we’ve been friends since grade school) to request that I help him spread the word of the importance of wearing a seat belt.

Bogusz was headed eastbound on I-80 on a vacation to visit three friends in three different states — Delaware, New Jersey and upstate in New York.

“I was in the middle lane of traffic on a Wednesday morning, and the weather conditions were sunny and clear,” he said. “The road condition was more slippery than I anticipated. I was in the middle lane of traffic, going just below the recommended speed limit. I saw that the left lane was wide open, so I signaled with my left directional and I attempted to gain the left lane.

“As soon as I did so, the back end of my car lost traction with the road surface, most likely due to ‘black ice.’ I was suddenly realizing that I was driving too fast for conditions, but it was too late. My car spun in a counter-clockwise fashion, and everything began to shift to my left — the weight of my car, the force of the spin of my car and my position physically in the car.

“When this red Honda Civic DX (1999) finally came to a rest, I was upside down hanging from my waist. I was hanging from my seat belt, for lack of a better word, comfortably.

“I was not bruised. I did not feel beaten as I watched in amazement the windshield break before my eyes. But the windshield did not fall into piece, it held together. Neither of the air bags deployed. So, hanging upside down, I was then able to unbuckle my seat belt and land on my feet.

“I saw that I had opportunity to open my passenger side door, so I made sure it was open and then I kicked that door as hard as I could. It opened, I was able to crawl out safely, and then I started to pace the shoulder of the highway until help finally came in multiple ways.”

When the emergency vehicles arrived, Bogusz recounts that the Indiana State Police officer who responded to the accident had compassion, as Bogusz sat in the passenger seat of the patrol car for what seemed like an hour. A fire truck also arrived, and the firefighters also checked on his well-being.

He asked the firefighters if they had smelled gasoline from the car while inspecting the crash, and they shook their heads. That emphasized to him that his accident could have been much worse.

Bogusz told me about his harrowing experience to deliver a strong message about the importance of wearing a seat belt while driving and making sure that all your passengers do likewise.

“Please, wear your seat belt because I sincerely know that it saved my life,” he said.

While coping with the mental aspects of such a serious accident, and the realization that he easily could’ve been killed, Bogusz is using this time of reflection to put his energies into cherishing, reconnecting with and educating his long list of friends to “click it” before driving.



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