FATAL DECISION: A difference between life and death
A DEAD body is slumped on the ground 100 metres away from where a car has crashed on the side of a Mackay road.
Two men were travelling in the VW Golf when the driver swerved too hard or lost control and the vehicle rolled - he did not survive, but the passenger did.
The difference was a seat belt.
This was the grim scene confronting Senior Constable Carl Butcher at one of the first fatal crashes he ever attended.
"It just goes to show that seat belts do save lives," the Mackay Road Policing Unit officer said.
"The driver wasn't wearing his seat belt… he was thrown a good 100m away from where the vehicle ended up.
"The passenger, who was wearing his seatbelt at the time came out unscathed."
During the next week the Daily Mercury will take a deep dive into each of the fatal five and the catastrophic consequences that can happen when they are ignored.
So far this year, Mackay district police has fined 246 people for not wearing a seat belt - that is more than one person every second day.
The penalty is a $400 fine and three demerit points.
"That is just unfathomable to us that 246 people would decide not to wear a seat belt," Sen-Constable Butcher said.
"It's doesn't seem that the message gets through to a lot of people. It's called the fatal five for a reason."
Two factors were at play for the young driver involved in the crash, which happened west of the city - speed and not wearing a seat belt.
"That became and extremely fatal combination for him," Sen-Constable Butcher said.
Incredibly, he said, there had been many cases where car owners had actually disconnected the sensors to stop the seat belt alert from beeping at them.
He said it was "unbelievable to us" that motorists went to that extent to stop a potentially lifesaving feature from beeping.
Telling someone their loved one had been killed in a crash was one of the hardest parts of the job, Sen-Constable Butcher said.
"It's a real gut-wrenching feeling," she said.
"And those family members have a range of emotions that they display."
Sen-Constable Butcher said the policy from police was clear.
"And it's been the message that we've had from day dot," he said.
"Don't speed, don't drive tired, wear your seat belt, if you're planning on going out and having a few drinks then make a plan B for someone else to drive… and just be safe on the road."