DEAR ABBY: I've been reading your column for lo these many years, for information as well as entertainment. I've read many worthwhile articles submitted by your readers, but never has anything startled me as much as the enclosed article from the Adirondack Advertiser in northern New York. Please print it, Abby - it may save a life. It certainly opened my eyes. - FRANCIS BOURASSA, LATHAM, N.Y.

DEAR MR. BOURASSA: It opened my eyes, too. But first a disclaimer to my readers: This is a very graphic description of what happens when an automobile going 55 miles an hour hits a solid object.BUCKLE YOUR SEAT BELTS

By the Georgia Paramedics Against Drunk Drivers (submitted by Lucille Groat)

Do you know what happens in the first fatal second after a car going 55 miles per hour hits a solid object?

1. In the first 10th of a second, the front bumper and grill collapse.

2. The second 10th finds the hood crumbling, rising and striking the windshield as the spinning rear wheels lift from the ground. Simultaneously, fenders begin wrapping themselves around the solid object. Although the car's frame has been halted, the rest of the car IS STILL GOING 55 MILES PER HOUR. Instinct causes the driver to stiffen his legs against the crash, and they snap at the knee joint.

3. During the third 10th of the second, the steering wheel starts to disintegrate and the steering column aims for the driver's chest.

4. The fourth 10th of the second finds two feet of the car's front end wrecked, while the rear end still moves at 35 miles per hour. The driver's body is still traveling at 55 miles per hour.

5. In the fifth 10th of a second, the driver is impaled on the steering column, and blood rushes into his lungs.

6. The sixth 10th of a second, the impact has built up to the point that the driver's feet are ripped out of tightly laced shoes. The brake pedal breaks off. The car frame buckles in the middle. The driver's head smashes into the windshield as the rear wheels, still spinning, fall back to earth.

7. In the seventh 10th of the second, hinges rip loose, doors fly open and the seats break free, striking the driver from behind.

8. The seat striking the driver does not bother him because he is already dead. The last three 10ths of the second mean nothing to the driver.

P.S. Readers: I suggest that you make several copies of this grisly piece, and the next time you ask a passenger to please buckle his or her seat belt and said passenger replies, "Oh, we're less than 10 minutes from where we're going," counter with, "I'm not moving until you buckle your seat belt." Then hand the passenger this piece.

DEAR ABBY: A relative has informed my husband and me that from now on, her gifts to us will be a donation to charity (one she picks). It would be fine with me if she gave us no gift at all because I know it's hard for her to shop, and if she gave us nothing, we wouldn't love her less.

However, I think the idea of giving to charity (no matter how good the cause) and calling it a "gift" is ridiculous! We give 10 percent of our gross income to charity, and when we give a gift, it's a GIFT.

For our wedding many years ago, someone made a donation to charity in our honor, and I honestly felt cheated and hurt. It wasn't much of a gift to be advised that $20 had been given in our name to some church group we had never heard of.

What do you think of gifts like that? - CAN'T UNDERSTAND

DEAR CAN'T: If one wants to make a charitable contribution to honor another, I think it would be more gracious and charitable to make the contribution to the favorite charity of the recipient. And if the giver isn't certain which one, the giver should ask.

Everything you'll need to know about planning a wedding can be found in Abby's booklet, "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)