they were 'saved by the belt'


The sun was shining on April 10, 1998, when Victoria and Christopher Glasow, left their Falls Church, Va., home, on their way to visit relatives in Ohio. They never reached their destination.

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A car crash at a Hagerstown exit off Interstate 70 injured both and totaled their 1995 Honda Accord.

The Glasows and law enforcement officials attribute their survival to their seat belt use.

"If I wasn't wearing my seat belt, I would have been shot out of the car," said Virginia Glasow, 42.

Maryland State Police have been stepping up seat belt law enforcement and education in April and May as part of the Chief's Challenge.

The Chief's Challenge is a nationwide effort by law enforcement to encourage the use of seat belts and child safety seats, according to Lt. Bruce Smith, commander of the state police barracks at Hagerstown.


"Approximately 50 percent of all fatalities in Washington County over the last two years could have been prevented if seat belts were used," said Smith.

Washington County had 26 traffic fatalities last year, down from 29 in 1997. So far this year, seven people have died on county highways, state police said.

State police will hold child safety seat examinations at the Hagerstown barracks off Sharpsburg Pike through the end of May. Information booths with related literature will be available at various shopping centers in the county.

The Glasows recently received the "Saved by the Belt," award given by the Maryland Center for Safety Belt Use. The organization has given out 500 of the awards over the past 12 years, according to Barbara Beckett, executive director.

"We feel certain that it would have been a lot worse if we weren't wearing them. We feel very fortunate to have survived," said Victoria Glasow.

A pickup truck rear-ended their car in the 4:30 p.m. accident.

"My husband said when he looked up he saw the grill of the truck and knew the driver wasn't going to stop," she said.

The Glasows car was pushed into the car in front of them and hit a guardrail.

"The whole car was smashed and there was no back seat left," she said.

Four of Virginia Glasow's ribs were broken in the collision and her husband had a concussion.

Years ago, wearing a seat belt was not a priority for her, Victoria Glasow said. She started wearing one when Maryland laws required it, she said.

"Now I would never think about not wearing one. No one gets into my car without buckling up," she said.

Getting behind the wheel is still difficult for Kathleen Sentelle.

The Maryland State Police secretary was on her way to the Hagerstown barracks during a snow storm when she lost control on Md. 17 near Myersville, Md., on March 9.

Her 1994 Plymouth Voyager slid into the path of a tractor-trailer hauling a backend loader around 9 a.m.

"We hit head-on and my car was completely turned around," said Sentelle, 34, of Frederick County, Md.

Her van was demolished, but she walked away with only minor injuries, she said.

"Something like that really makes you realize what's important. My life could have been taken away. I tell everybody now, 'wear your seat belt,'" she said.

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