Interstate 80 accident reinforces call to buckle up

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The holiday season will be busy on the nation's highways. AAA predicts that nearly 86 million Americans will be driving more than 50 miles.

It's a life lesson about safety at the 160 Driving Academy in Moline.

Whenever truck driving student Eyob Mahray prepares for a test, fastening his seat belt is a top priority.

"Wear a seat belt and be focused," he urged.

Accident aftermath from Monday drives home that point on Interstate 80.

"It appears that a distraction from within the vehicle caused the crash," said Clint Thulen, Illinois State Police.

The driver reached for his dropped eye glasses. His truck crossed onto the right shoulder near Annawan, striking a guardrail and rolling onto the passenger side.

Esteban Morales, 61, was found unharmed. He was still buckled up and hanging upside-down in the cab.

"He was wearing his seat belt, which kept him in the driver's seat and prevented more serious injury or possibly even his death," Thulen said.

While distractions are a part of being on the road, it's how drivers respond that can literally make the difference between life or death.

Yard skills for the students require concentration. It's concentration designed to eliminate distracted driving. The seat belt plays a crucial role during a truck accident.

"They (trucks) crumple around you to protect you," said Kris Gilbert, an instructor at 160 Driving Academy. "So a seat belt keeps you in place while all that's happening around you."

It's an important case study for drivers. During this four-week program, students learn all the right moves about safety.

"It's always being alert," said owner Steve Gold. "Always watching out for the other guy and paying attention."

The mangled metal and shattered glass is a painful reminder for all drivers to pay attention and buckle up.

"Absolutely," Thulen concluded. "This is a great example of how seat belts can save a life."

Something to remember while on the road this holiday season.