Mary Evans had time for just one thought as the careening sedan bore down on her.
“This is it - I’m dead,” Evans said Tuesday as she recounted the Oct. 9 collision on Spokane’s Hatch Road. “I thought there’s no way I can survive this.”
Seconds later, the sulphur-like aroma of air bag propellant proved the 48-year-old Spokane resident wrong.
“I didn’t even know they’d deployed,” she said. “Then I smelled that air bag smell, and I knew I was alive.”
Evans told her story as Eastern Washington law enforcement agencies kicked off their Three Flags Safety Program.
For 10 days beginning Friday, officers across Washington, Oregon and British Columbia will conduct “emphasis patrols” on roads and highways, reminding people of the importance of wearing seat belts, driving sober and obeying the speed limit.
Officers also will be targeting parents who don’t have infants strapped into safety seats, said Trooper Doug Jacobs of the Washington State Patrol.
In Washington, officers will “educate” offending drivers with $66 citations.
Statistics indicate Eastern Washington drivers need education in safe driving.
Nearly 86 percent of residents statewide use their seat belts, according to Martin O’Leary of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department traffic unit.
The most recent figures available for the Valley show 56 percent of people use safety belts, O’Leary said. In Spokane, the average runs about 76 percent, said Mark Knight of the Police Department.
O’Leary and Knight hope stories like Evans’ will serve as gentle reminder.
The wreck left her broken and bruised.
Doctors reconstructed her crushed right heel with 10 screws, four steel pins and a metal plate. Her right hand, which was gripping the stick shift at impact, fractured.
But her air bag and seat belt kept her from more serious injuries.
The drunken driver that hit her is paralyzed as a result of the crash. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt.
“It made a believer out of me,” Evans said.
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