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And just like that, the holidays are upon us once again! I know this to be true because the temperatures are dropping along with the leaves and a palpable tension hangs thick in the air above Cache Valley as the realization sets in that a good share of our Christmas gifts are sitting on cargo ships off the coast of California. I wonder what effect that’ll have on the lines of people camped outside our local behemoth box stores as they wait for their “delayed” shipments of the newest I-phone 26 whatevers.

As more and more people are surfacing from their “rona bunkers” and venturing outside, the traffic congestion has increased significantly. Back in the olden days before “Black Friday” had an official name, we used to venture to Ogden and points south to do our shopping and spend the day. Not any more. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has estimated that this year during the holidays upwards of 108.4 million people are going to be driving to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s almost as many people as tried getting into WinCo’s parking lot this past week. Craziness, I tell you!

Inevitably, the sheer number of people hitting America’s roads will sadly end for some with an accident and even a fatal injury, a rotten way to have to spend the holidays for sure. Celebrating without that certain someone who always makes family time together special is so difficult. You just never get over it. Unfortunately, I belong to that exclusive club.

I typically don’t make it a point to turn my columns into public service announcements, but could I perhaps ask a favor? Whether you’re traveling a 1,000 miles to visit family or just to the gas station down the street, will you make sure everyone in your vehicle is properly restrained?

Our 5th grade Click-It Club here at school sponsors an essay contest every November to usher in the holidays and remind everyone to stay safe as they travel. The title of the essay is, “Why should I use a seatbelt?” The essay is open to students in K-6 classes and has been an eye-opening and cherished event. I’d like to share a few of them with you from this year and a few from years past. (I’ve edited the spelling and grammar of a few of them so they are more legible).

“While driving his truck, my uncle was hit by a bus that ran a stop sign, because he was buckled he was ok and no serious damage to him or his body was done. I think we could and should all be safe by wearing our seatbelts”.

— “When you hit another car at 80 miles an hour you go flying 80 miles an hour, but if you have a seat belt you hit the seatbelt at 80 miles an hour and you stop because the seatbelt takes the 80 miles per hour and stops you and your life is saved.”

— “Be safe, wear a seatbelt because, say you get in a car crash without a seatbelt maybe you’ll bonk your head or you might bend your arm funny, so wear a seatbelt.”

— “Many tragedies happen in car accidents and if you are drunk and driving and not wearing a seatbelt you might be driving home from something and crash and fly out and land on your grandma’s piano.”

— “It really doesn’t take skill, all you have to do is grab the buckle and slide it in and you’re done and then you just go on with your car ride.”

— “One time my friend got in a car crash and they flipped over but luckily they were both wearing their seatbelts and neither of them were injured, this is why we always need to wear a seatbelt.”

— “Drive the speed limit, don’t be silly while you are driving and don’t text while driving. Wear a seatbelt, it holds you in place so you don’t fly out the window.”

— “There are many ways to stay safe in a car, don’t text and drive, watch the road! Once my mom hit the curb, her seatbelt saved her.”

— “My mom’s dad almost died because of a troop of deer, their car almost flipped over! Wear your seatbelt, it holds you in place, oh and don’t drink drugs and drive left to right.”

— “Do it, it keeps you safe so your mom and dad don’t get arrested.”

— “My cousin was in a car accident and had to be life-flighted in a helicopter. She wasn’t wearing her seatbelt and lost her leg. She is my favorite cousin, she is learning to dance on one foot. That is why we should wear our seatbelts.”

And of course there’s this: “If you’re in an accident and you’re the passenger and you’re not heavy enough then your airbag will go off and seat belts can be devils if somehow the earth is closer to the sun your car will explode!”

A great way to remember to wear your seatbelt and turn off your phone? Tie a small piece of yarn to your steering wheel, simple but effective. So when you drive “over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house we go” this year, buckle up and, yeah, don’t drive too close to the sun. Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving!

Chad Hawkes is a fifth grade teacher at North Park Elementary School. He can be reached by email at chad.hawkes@ccsdut.org.

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