Marysville News

Teen credits seat belt for saving his life

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When 16-year-old Chris Hrytzik was stopped at the recent "Click It or Ticket" surprise seat-belt check at Marysville High School, he had no idea his seat belt would save his life less than two weeks later.

He got a free Icee for being buckled up May 20, but on June 2, he got a second chance at life.

Shortly after 4 p.m. June 2, Chris was driving home from his summer job at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium when his 2002 Chevrolet Camaro went off the road, struck a tree and flipped over. He doesn't recall what happened or why he drove off the side of Hinton Mill Road less than two miles from his home.

"The last thing I remember is literally like a snapshot of grass," he said.

"I didn't feel the impact. I didn't feel my air bag go off. I didn't feel myself get launched over," he said. "I just woke up, upside down."

The Camaro was crushed. The left front wheel was pushed into the passenger seat; that side of the car was twisted so badly the passenger-side air bag hit Chris in the face.

Somehow, he walked away.

"I managed to unbuckle my seat belt, and I was on the ground and I was reaching for the handle on the driver side door. I couldn't find it, but I noticed there was a bit of a gap between the window and the car," he said.

"I managed to push it open halfway out and slide out over on my back and pull myself the rest of the way out."

Chris' car had landed in the front yard of a house. He walked there to get help.

Emergency crews took him to Memorial Hospital of Union County. Doctors thought his nose was broken, most likely from the impact of the air bag, but it wasn't. Chris walked out of the hospital with a concussion and two Band-Aids.

Chris' dad, Steve Hrytzik, has been Powell's deputy police chief for 23 years. In his experience, whenever a car involved in an accident looks that bad, the outcome is, too.

"I've seen it not end like this, but end in death," Hrytzik said.

Chris, an honors student who just finished his junior year, and his parents are trying to use the accident to make sure everyone understands the importance of buckling up.

The "Click It or Ticket" campaign, held nationwide from May 19 to June 1, emphasizes that seat-belt use saves thousands of lives each year.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that in 2012, seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives nationwide. Sixty-two percent of 18- to 34-year-olds killed in passenger vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts.

The Union County Sheriff's Office said neither drugs nor alcohol was a factor in the crash. Chris was cited for failure to control a motor vehicle. Because of his age, he will lose his driver's license for a time. A court date has not been set.

Three days after the accident, Chris went to look at his car.

"I was in awe, honestly. I never thought anything like that could happen. Make sure your seat belt works and is on at all times," he said.

Since he got his driver's license, Chris' penchant for safe driving has been somewhat of a family joke.

"We always call him a grandma when he drives. He never drives the speed limit, he always drives under it," his father said. "This was not a situation where he was driving too fast."

The accident happened the day after Ohio Senate Bill 294, which designates September as Safe Driving Awareness Month, unanimously cleared the state's House of Representatives.

The thought of what could have happened to her son frightens his mother, Sheryl.

"This is what happens when you do everything right. He had his seat belt on. He was not on his phone. He was not eating or drinking in the car while driving," she said.

"I'm just glad his seat belt was on and he walked away," his father said.

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