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Seat belt ticket proves life-saving

POSTED May 28, 2013 9:19 p.m.

A Turlock Police officer is being credited with saving the life of a 21-year-old woman, because of all things, he gave her a traffic ticket.

The woman was cited by Officer Joe Dusel for not wearing a seat belt on Feb. 22. Five days later, the woman was involved in a collision that the police say would have had a fatal outcome if she hadn’t been wearing her seat belt.

The events were put into motion when Dusel spotted the woman at the intersection of Geer Road and Monte Vista Avenue with her seat belt hanging unused behind her.

Dusel pulled the woman over and issued her a citation for the infraction.

According to the police report, the woman was upset about the citation because it was going to cost her an estimated $170. She also told Dusel she didn’t wear her seat belt because it “messed” up her hair and wrinkled her clothes, and “she was a good driver, so she didn’t need it.”

Five days after receiving the citation the woman was driving down Santa Fe Avenue when she was struck by a vehicle that pulled out suddenly from Berkeley Avenue.

Her vehicle rolled several times from the impact and came to a rest on its wheels. The woman sustained moderate to severe injuries from the collision, however, emergency personnel said it could have been far worse if she hadn’t been wearing her seat belt — even if it was done begrudgingly.

“Traffic officers’ mission is the reduction of collision related injuries and death through education and enforcement,” said Turlock Police Sgt. Neil Cervenka, the Turlock Traffic Safety Unit supervisor. “Many people complain or are upset when they get a citation. We, as police officers, understand that. However, we also understand that the citation is meant to correct negative driving behavior. In this case it did – and she is here to prove it.” 

Dusel likely would not have ever known the impact he had on the woman’s life if she and her parents had not visited the police department recently and told the tale of her close call. The woman’s mother told Dusel she had implored her daughter to use her seat belt on several occasions, but was rebuffed each time. So, when she heard about the citation, she had one reply for her daughter — “Good.”

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