St. George teens urge others to buckle up after surviving crash with diesel truck

Judd Hirschi, 17, and Luke Hirschi, 16, were in a serious crash with a diesel truck last September. They believe their lives were saved because they were wearing their seatbelt. UDOT’s John Gleason says nearly half of Utah’s vehicle fatalities are a result of people not wearing a seatbelt. (Kristine Hirschi)


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HURRICANE — This year alone, 42 people who were not wearing a seatbelt have died on Utah roads.

Two St. George teens said they're grateful they listened to their mom when she asked them to always buckle up.

When the Hirschi brothers head home from school, they always buckle up. But, they admit, it hasn't always been that way.

"Well, I tried to wear mine most the time, but I … would forget," said 16-year-old Luke Hirschi.

Last September, Luke attended the Zero Fatalities Parent Night with his mom, Kristine, who's attended that meeting a total of eight times with each of her children.

Luke is Kristine's youngest.

"They started showing these pictures of what happens when you don't wear your seatbelt and stuff and how much wearing your seatbelt can help you," he recalled.

Kristine said she loves that meeting since it helps teen drivers understand the serious responsibility they undertake when they are on the road.

"That night is so important. We've never missed it," she said. "For them to be able to see and learn from other people's life experiences — that's invaluable."

That night, Luke promised his mom that, moving forward, he would always buckle up.

"I kind of went away from that meeting like it's a lot bigger deal than I think and I should probably wear my seatbelt," he said.

The very next morning, Judd and Luke were driving to school.

"I turned on State Street and it stares right at the sun," Judd remembered. "I sat there and kind of looked and I could see two glares off two cars way down there, and I was like, I was like, 'Oh, all right, I'm good to go.'"

But before he knew it, Judd and Luke were in a serious crash.

"Luke yells at me. He says, 'There's a diesel, there's a diesel,'" he said. "All the sudden just bam, we stopped."

"That diesel drove right up onto the hood of their car, literally to the driver's windshield," Kristine described. "Oh, my heart went right to my throat."

The car was totaled, but both boys survived.

Judd suffered airbag burns on his arm and injured his foot pretty badly.

Luke tore a ligament in the back of his neck and had a bruise across his chest from his seatbelt, but he said he's so grateful he was buckled up.

"I think, maybe if I wasn't wearing my seatbelt, I probably would have gone to the windshield and rolled out in the middle of the street, and it could have been a lot worse," Luke said.

"I could have been dead," Judd added. "I never thought I'd be in a crash, and here I am and it saved my life, probably."

It's something Kristine can't even think about without becoming emotional.

"I don't know what I'd do," she said.

John Gleason with the Utah Department of Transportation said over the last five years, nearly half of Utah's vehicle fatalities (45%) were a result of people not wearing a seatbelt.

"There's still a shockingly disproportionate number of people that are dying on our roads as a result of just not buckling up," Gleason.

He said it's simple, yet lifesaving.

"It takes two seconds to buckle yourself and make sure that everybody in your car is buckled. It's the simplest thing you can do to prevent getting injured in a crash," he said.

Gleason said it starts with good examples.

"Parents are the No. 1 resource for kids. They teach their kids, and kids learn how to how to drive properly and how to exhibit the proper behaviors on our roads from watching their parents," he said. "It's important that we buckle up so that our kids learn from us, as well."

Kristine has set the precedent in the Hirschi home.

"Our driver doesn't leave the driveway or the parking stall where they are until everybody in the vehicle has a seatbelt on. It's just not an option," she said.

Luke reminds passengers in the vehicle to also pay attention.

"Just being aware of what's going on everything and just always be on the lookout," he advised.

"I'm also grateful for Judd because, you know, sometimes we get in arguments and we don't always listen to each other. But I'm just grateful that he, just as soon as I said it, he just acted on it and I'm super grateful for that."

He believes their situation could have been much worse had he not been watching the road alongside his brother.

"The fact that not only did they have their seatbelts on, but Luke, who was the passenger, was paying attention, literally saved their lives. If he wouldn't have said anything and they would have continued driving, they would have gone right between the back wheels of that diesel trailer and it would have ran right over the top of them," Kristine said.

"It happens so fast, without even realizing it," Luke said. "I'm so grateful for that seat belt."

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