Living proof: retired trooper says restraints kept him safe in accident

Published 9:24 am Tuesday, April 7, 2015

NW0407 Saved by the Belt

Wearing his seat belt likely saved Steve Galyon’s life when he and his wife, Suzanne, were in a major car accident in Roan Mountain Nov. 11.

Because his proactive measures likely saved his life, Galyon was awarded the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Saved by the Belt Award Friday. Galyon is a retired THP sergeant. He served for 30 years in the THP and worked as an accident reconstructionist.

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“Steve was in a bad wreck, and had he not been wearing his seat belt, the outcome could have been very different,” THP Sgt. Jonathan Street said. “Had he not been restrained, he could have faced life-threatening injuries or death.”

The Galyons were in an accident on Highway 19E near Hughes Hollow Road. Their car had come to a complete stop to turn left when they were hit from behind at full speed. The Galyons’ truck flipped, turned 180 degrees and slid on its top before coming to a stop.

Galyon said he checked his mirror when stopping and noticed no cars behind him.

“As I was starting to turn, I took my foot off the brake and the next thing I knew we were on our top,” he said. “It’s a good thing I wore my seat belt. I didn’t expect wearing my seat belt to be a lifesaver for me, but it turned out that way. Without wearing my seat belt, I felt I would have broken my neck or worse.”

If Galyon had not been wearing his seat belt, Street believes he could likely have been ejected from the vehicle, which could have resulted in the truck rolling over on top of him.

“He had minor injuries, which was nothing compared to what could have happened,” Street said.

During the accident, the top of the truck was crushed, limiting the space in the cab. While Galyon’s wife was able to get herself out of the vehicle, Galyon had to wait to be extricated.

“One of my fears was being in an accident like this and not being able to get out,” he said. “I had to do a lot of praying to keep a sound peace of mind. A lot of people have a fear they will be in an accident and not be able to get out because of the seat belt. It was no problem for me. The steering wheel held me in place, and my foot was stuck under the brake pedal.”

A bystander on the scene, who also worked as an EMS in North Carolina, talked with Galyon to comfort him until he could be extricated from his truck.

“I don’t know who he was, but I owe him a tremendous gratitude,” Galyon said.

While working as an accident reconstructionist with the highway patrol, Galyon witness the results of many severe crashes, many of those with fatalities.

“Most of the time, the people were not wearing a seat belt, and in most cases it would have made a difference,” he said.

Galyon has a habit of wearing his seat belt each time he gets in a vehicle.

“I got in the habit when I was on the highway patrol,” he said. “When I first came on the highway patrol there were no seat belts. When they were brought in, we were required to wear them. I pray that people realize that seat belts can and do save lives. When I put my foot on the gas, my seat belt is on. “

The Saved by the Belt Award is given by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office to Tennessee drivers who were saved from serious injury or death in a car accident by wearing their seat belts. Highway patrol officers who respond to the scene send in a synopsis of the crash and tell how they think wearing the seat belts helped, Street said.

“We hope this motivates someone else to wear their safety belts,” Street said. “This is a real crash and a real person. Sgt. Galyon is a retired state trooper who walks the walk and wears his seat belt.”

Galyon was given an award and plaque to recognize him for his decision to buckle up.

Hopefully when people read this, when they get in a vehicle, they will say wearing a seat belt saved his life, and maybe I should wear mine,” Galyon said.