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Tess Colebank's Story

"Don't think it won't happen to you."

Whether you are a driver or a passenger in a vehicle, you always need to wear your seat belt. No matter the length of your drive or the location you're seated in the vehicle. Williston, North Dakota native Tess Colebank experienced first-hand the consequences of not wearing a seat belt and later, the benefits of wearing her seat belt. Today, Tess frequently encourages others to wear their seat belts by sharing her story on social media. This is her story.

Warning: some images may be graphic. 


In 2012, Tess Colebank's life changed forever while on her way to an anniversary party.

"I had just bought a new puppy and he was annoying me. So, I took my seat belt off, turned around to put him in the back and turned around and we were a block away from where we were going so I just didn't put it back on and..."

A few seconds later, the pick-up truck that Tess was a passenger in was hit nearly head-on at 40 miles per hour.

"I hit the dash with my mouth and broke pretty much my whole face. My nose was broke in three spots. My teeth were broke out and some of them were pushed back to the middle of my mouth. I just remember feeling the pressure on my mouth and I just remember there being blood everywhere and I didn't know where it was coming from and it all came back into real motion and realized it was coming from my face and my mouth and it was just traumatizing."
What followed for Tess was two years-worth of appointments, surgeries and sky-rocketing out of pocket bills for what insurance didn't cover.

"I had to have bone grafting done multiple times because of that bone that holds your teeth and then I had to have implant surgery for my teeth. I had dentures, two different sets and then I had posts that went up into my bone, I guess. So then, they put the teeth implants on. It's a long process. You deal with physical and emotional scars your whole life. Getting in a car again is terrifying."

Four years later, in 2016, Tess was involved in another crash. This time, she was driving on the highway going 55 miles per hour.

"I could feel my car starting to go on opposite sides, on two wheels and it threw us side to side. I remember how scared I was and how much worse it was going to be just because of the speed. I remember reaching for my friend and I thought I had killed her and finally when we stopped rolling we got out from under the airbag and we were both fine, just shaken up. We were both fine because we wore our seat belts."

This time, Tess knew the seat belt saved her life. 

"I've been in two crashes in my life and I have learned a lot about wearing a seat belt."

Even though she's seen first-hand how seat belt use changed her outcome, there's a bigger reason she continues to wear one.

"I do it now, because I want to be there for my son. Don't think it won't happen to you because I never thought it would happen to me."