Helen Kessler does not recommend it to everyone but says her exceeding the speed limit may have saved her son's life.
Well, it's a little more complicated than that. Helen, 32, was driving about 10 miles over the limit on Dec. 13, 1988, near Price, when Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Cort Childs pulled her over. Her husband Brian, 35, cursed their luck - the car's cruise control had broken a few days earlier. Brian held son Zachary, 2, in his lap.Childs wrote out a $60 ticket and mentioned that the law required Zachary to be secured in a car seat. The Kesslers were already wearing seat belts but strapped their son into his seat before continuing north, toward their Salt Lake home.
When they reached Spanish Fork Canyon, the intoxicated driver of a truck pulling a horse trailer passed another truck and plowed into the driver's side of the Kessler car at 55 mph.
Helen took the impact, which crushed her eye orbit, punctured her lung, dislocated her hip and fractured her knee. She was pinned in the vehicle until rescue crews freed her. She was hospitalized for 15 days and is still recovering from some injuries. Brian and Zachary were unhurt.
"I know if Zachary had still been in my lap, he would have gone through the windshield," Brian said. "Even though I was in a seat belt, with that kind of impact there is no way I could have held on to him. After the accident, we realized how lucky we were to be stopped earlier."
His wife agreed.
"There is no doubt the seat belts saved us," she said. "Everyone who has looked at our car says they have never seen a car with that kind of damage where there were survivors."
This week, Lt. Jim Utley, of the Utah County division of the Highway Patrol, presented the Kesslers with the "Seat Belt Survivor" award.
"It's not very often we do something and see such an immediate result," Utley said. "We do our best to help prevent accidents, but we never know if we have really helped. We are very proud to know something we did helped save your lives." Utley said his office has presented such awards only five times in the past five years.
Brian said Zachary enjoyed the accident, which occurred on the boy's second birthday.
"His favorite part was riding in the ambulance, watching the red light flash and seeing the other cars get out of our way. He had a look on his face like `this is how it should always be.' "
But Zachary will pay a price for the accident too.
"I'm a true believer now," Brian said. "That kid's riding in a car seat until he's 16."