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Adventures in Shiiba - July 1995
Erik Kassebaum

July will mark my second year in Japan. My original plans for this anniversary article were changed on June 21st at about 12:40pm. Prior to this time I was going to write about how much I love living and working in Shiiba, how I feel at home here and how I wish I could extend my stay for more than just another year.

On June 21st I was in a serious car accident. The other driver was driving at very high speed in the rain on a very narrow road in Matsuo. Because of his high speed and the narrow road I was not able to prevent a head on collision. My car was destroyed. In addition I suffered injuries to my neck and teeth. Cars can be fixed or replaced - people are not so lucky. The accident made me think about life. Though my car was destroyed and I suffered a few injuries I think I was lucky. I and the other driver are alive. I was able to walk away from the crash because I was wearing my seatbelt. My seatbelt kept me from flying into the dashboard and the windshield of my car. Had I not been wearing a seatbelt I would probably be in an intensive care ward at the Prefectural Hospital and my parents would be having to learn about Japan the hard way.

My message this month is simple - wear your seatbelts. If you have children make sure that they are wearing their seatbelts. If you have a baby use a baby seat. If you do not make your children wear their seatbelts or put them in baby seats while driving you are playing "Russian Roulette" with their lives. It is very dangerous to hold a baby in your lap while driving. The baby will either act as a cushion or fly into the dashboard or windshield during a crash.

Every foreigner that I know is shocked by the high percentage of Japanese parents who allow their children to ride in cars without wearing seatbelts or sit in baby seats. Japan has much stricter laws for alcohol consumption and driving than California, but when it comes to child safety while driving Japan is a very dangerous place. In California if a child is injured in a crash and the child was not wearing a seatbelt or sitting in a baby seat - the driver of the car (that the children were in) can be charged with assault. If the child is killed the driver of the car (that the children were in) can be charged with manslaughter (murder). These charges can take place even if someone else caused the accident.

I am sorry if this article comes as a shock. After thirteen years of accident free driving I became a victim on 6/21/95. I was lucky and I know that my seatbelt saved my life. I love working in Shiiba because I think I have the best job in the world and I do not want any of the people that I have come to know and love to be injured because they were lazy or felt that a baby seat would cost too much. For those of you who think that a baby seat costs too much - you should check to see how much a funeral costs. By the way, most American hospitals will not let parents of newborn babies take their baby home unless the parents prove to the hospital staff that they have a baby seat and that they know how to use it properly.

I would like to thank all of the people who have helped me during this difficult period. Your help and support helped to make a difficult situation easier for me to cope with.

Please "Buckle Up - the life you save may be your own, or that of someone you love."