Masterton resident Alix Cooper at a memorial seat for her husband Craig Cooper. PHOTO/FILE

It only takes five seconds to put on a seatbelt, so belt-up

Lisa Urbani

Masterton’s Alix Cooper believes her “guardian angel” – her beloved husband, Craig Cooper, who passed away in 2014 – was looking after her as she careered 30 metres down a steep bank and crashed into a tree this month.

She had been deep in thought about a problem she was dealing with, and had a split-second of inattention as she started the descent on Saddle Rd between Ashhurst and Woodville.

Despite fearing she might end up badly injured or killed, Alix escaped relatively unscathed – largely due to the fact that she was wearing her seatbelt.

“My life literally flashed before my eyes”, she said.

“I was rolling down the hill very fast, the car was out of control and a huge tree was coming towards me.”

A lucky escape for Alix Cooper when her car went down a bank on the Saddle Road near Woodville and landed against a tree. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Fortuitously, it was the middle of the week and school holidays, and people were there in seconds to help her, including a lovely young woman who told her, “you must have a guardian angel looking out for you”.

Finding herself hyperventilating and in shock, Alix was supported by a kind Anneke Vermeer who wrapped her in blankets and said that she had known Craig and that “he was a wonderful man”.

She even knew her dog Pepsi, and with these comforting words, Alix felt calm, despite incredible chest pains which paramedics thought might be broken ribs.

Anneke sat with Alix until the ambulance arrived, and many of her friends Robyn Prior and Vicki Hutchings, Elizabeth Snowsill, Lucy Griffiths, Helen, Barbara Udy, Lorraine Jones, Fiona and others also rallied round, and some visited her in hospital.

Her beloved shih-tzu dog Pepsi was also smuggled in by her friend and although she wondered if this would cause a problem, the doctors and nurses were delighted to have cuddle.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said wearing a safety belt reduced the chance of death or serious injury in a crash by 40 per cent.

Whether you sit in the front or the back seat, the risk of serious or fatal injury is virtually the same, he said.

New Zealand’s safety belt wearing rate when last measured was 96 per cent for adults in the front seat, and 90 per cent in the rear seat.

Although this is a high compliance rate, up to 30 per cent of vehicle occupant deaths in recent years hadn’t been buckled up.

Full compliance with seatbelts is still an issue which “astounds” Pauling.

As a former police officer of 30 years, he had attended too many unrestrained occupant deaths than he cared to remember.

“It takes five seconds to put on a seatbelt, and without doubt, it saves lives.”

This is a fact that Alix can attest to.

“I’m still exhausted and spectacular shades of black and blue, with headaches and nausea, but this has been a wonderful lesson in knowing what and who matters in life, and to always wear your seatbelt.

“I would probably not be here today without it.”

Videos on the correct use of child restraints can be found on the Wairarapa Road safety Council Facebook page.