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A simple seat belt likely saved Tiger

Everybody knows “Tiger.” The world in on a first-name basis with him. Even those who don’t know a five-iron from a skillet iron know who he is: regarded by many as the best golfer in the history of that sport. He grew from phenom to a statesman for his sport. His brand is everywhere. He transcended his sport. He is global. He is praised for attracting so many — especially minorities and youth — into a sport that they otherwise may never have considered.

Tiger Woods was nearly killed Tuesday. Accent on nearly. A grim reality is that a wondrous competitive golf career is likely over. But his life isn’t. You likely saw the blanket news coverage of his horrific traffic accident that occurred just outside of Los Angeles..

“I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” said LA Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who first arrived on the scene.

Alive indeed. According to authorities, Woods’ midsize SUV appeared to first make contact with the median, then went across two lanes. It hit a curb, hit trees and rolled over several times, with the vehicle ultimately settling hundreds of feet from the road. There were no skid marks and no evidence of braking. Some reports had his vehicle traveling 700 feet after hitting that curb before coming to rest. Think about it: that’s covering the length of two football fields and then some. He just missed a utility pole. Yes, he just missed dying.

Why the 45-year-old Tiger did not brake is puzzling for sure. Whether he was distracted and/or speeding will be determined in time. The upscale vehicle he was driving had — using a simple term — a “black box” of sorts which should indicate how fast he was going and if there was some, however unlikely, kind of mechanical failure. Authorities stated he was not impaired. Weather was not a factor. He was driving in bright early daylight.

It is good that nobody was coming in the opposite direction when Tiger went barreling across the roadway before ending up in brush, the SUV on its side. It is good that he didn’t have any passengers. The stretch of road he was on is notorious for accidents, often involving high speeds way above the 45 MPH limit.

Extensive major surgery took hours Tuesday. Tiger is recovering from what a doctor said were “significant orthopaedic injuries to his right lower extremity.” As part of a statement on Woods’ official Twitter account, Dr. Anish Mahajan of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center updated his condition, saying in part that Woods had multiple “open fractures” to his lower right leg, and he had a rod placed in his tibia and screws and pins inserted in his foot and ankle during an emergency surgery.

“Comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia,” said Mahajan, the chief medical officer and interim CEO at Harbor-UCLA. “Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins. Trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling.” A comminuted fracture means the bone is broken into more than two pieces. Open means a break in the skin. That brings infection into play.

Tiger is renowned for coming back from multiple health procedures related to his professional career including five back surgeries. Less than two years ago, he captivated the golfing world by winning another Masters championship — his 15th major title. Only Jack Nicklaus with 18 has more. Tiger is tied for the most career wins with 82. His convalescence will be different and certainly more of a hardship than any of his post-back surgery comebacks. The challenge will be as steep as that roadway he was on and the bank that his vehicle roller-coasted into before settling into a mangled mess.

But Tiger is alive. If anyone needs to be reminded of seat belt usage, listen over and over to that press conference held post-accident. The consensus was that his seat belt saved his life.

Seat belts do save lives. It’s that simple. Why some do not use seat belts is downright confounding based on evidence. You might have been involved in an accident or know someone who was using a seat belt that prevented critical injuries or even death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that our nation recently achieved an important milestone for road safety: an all-time record seat belt use rate of 90 percent. That’s great news. As recently as 2004, seat belt usage was roughly 10 percent lower. But simple math tells you that if 10 percent of our country’s 227.5 million licensed drivers do not use a seat belt on a regular basis that means over 27 million Americans aren’t taking the simple, lifesaving step of buckling up. Not to mention passengers who disregard seat belts. Why someone wouldn’t buckle up each and every time before hitting the ignition beats us. If you have an answer, please do send along a letter to the editor or drop us an email. We are curious as to why someone wouldn’t wear a seat belt. And, no, don’t give us the “it’s an infringement on my free will rights.” C’mon, seriously.

Statistics reveal that in 2019, 36,096 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes on US roadways, with nearly half (47%) not wearing a seat belt. Some more seat belt support via the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute:

­– ­In 2019, 36,096 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes on US roadways, with nearly half (47%) not wearing a seat belt.

— ­When used properly, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45% and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50%.

— Seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017.

— People not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash. More than three out of four people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries.

Tiger Woods was involved in a very serious and life-altering crash Tuesday. But it wasn’t a fatal crash. That is because of the grace of our good Lord and a simple seat belt. It should be a reminder for all of us.

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