Seatbelts save lives - coroner

A coroner spoke out yesterday about the potentially fatal consequences of not wearing a seatbelt following inquests into two separate deaths on Norfolk's roads.

A coroner spoke out yesterday about the potentially fatal consequences of not wearing a seatbelt following inquests into two separate deaths on Norfolk's roads.

The tragedies showed that not wearing a seatbelt, as well as being illegal, can reduce the likelihood of survival in the event of a collision, said Greater Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong.

He endorsed a recent Norfolk Police awareness campaign which revealed the law was being flouted by “many people of all ages”.

His comments followed a hearing on 53-year-old Keith Peart who was not wearing a seatbelt when his van left the B1150 Norwich/North Walsham road and struck a tree, killing him instantly,

Earlier Mr Armstrong heard evidence that Rafal Gradzien, 27, a Polish national who was more than three times the drink-drive limit, might have survived a head-on crash at Hilborough, had he been wearing a seatbelt.

“This is the second inquest I have dealt with today where the deceased driver was not wearing a seatbelt,” he said.

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“I have a duty to give out a powerful and unequivocal message that not only is not wearing a seatbelt against the law, any collision can lead to more substantial injuries than would otherwise have been suffered and can reduce the prospect of survival.”

Mr Gradzien, of Little London Road, Northwold, was driving on the wrong side of the A1065 when he collided head-on with another car at 3.20am on October 19 last year.

He had bought his Vauxhall Vectra just hours before from a friend and had little or no experience of driving in the UK since arriving in the country in April.

Uzma Naheed, who was driving towards Swaffham, said she was startled by the bright headlights of a car coming towards her on her side of the road. She stopped but there was nothing she could do to avoid a crash.

Mr Gradzien was thrown from his car and died instantly, while Dr Naheed suffered a broken leg and spent three days in the critical care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn.

Neighbour and friend Slawomir Gawecki said he sold Mr Gradzien the car and they had drunk vodka together that night.

PC Nicholas Kett, of the collision investigation unit, said damage to the Vectra's windscreen indicated he was not wearing a seatbelt. He had 287mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, the legal limit being 85g.

Recording a verdict of death by road traffic accident, Mr Armstrong said: “If he had been wearing a seatbelt his prospect of surviving the collision would have been much greater.”

Giving evidence at the other inquest, Steven Gigli said he was driving to North Walsham when he spotted a white Fiat Ducato van smashed against a tree at Scottow, near Coltishall, at about 3.45am on June 22 last year.

He ran to Mr Peart's aid but found no signs of life and firefighters discovered the landscape gardener from Drakes Close, East Harling, had not been wearing a seatbelt.

PC Kett said it was not known why the van had mounted the offside verge because the road was straight, the weather was clear and Mr Peart had not been drinking.

The seven-day police campaign, which ended on Tuesday, involved spot checks on motorists and their passengers around the county.