The importance of seat belts

Contributed by Gayla Owen,

LVN, Culberson Hospital Trama Section

Everyone Has a Role in Making Our Roads Safer

No one wakes up thinking they will lose a loved one in a car crash that day.  But every day about 100 people die in crashes and more than 1,000 suffer life-changing injuries.

Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of death for children and young adults ages 5 to 24, and the #2 cause of death for adults 25 and older and for toddlers, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Crashes are also the #1 cause of workplace fatalities.  Overwhelmingly, these deaths are preventable, and you can help change these statistics.  The National Safety Council has a message for every driver:  Slow down, stop using your phone while driving, make good choices, buckle up and watch out for children.  It will save lives.  And remember, you’re setting an example for your own kids.

One Call Can Change Everything

Many distractions exist while driving, but cell phone use tops the list.  With some states laws focused on handheld bans, and care makers putting hands-free technology in vehicles, many drivers assume hands-free cell phone use is safe.  It’s not.  There is no safe way to use a cell phone and drive.

About one-quarter, or 1.3 million crashes a year, can be attributed to using phones.  NSC advocates for stronger laws, helps employers assess their cell phone policies and provides a free cell phone policy kit, evaluates research and educates the public to change driver behavior.

Seat Belts Save Lives

Worn properly, seat belts are your best protection against injury in a crash.  That’s why 49 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring people riding in cars to wear seat belts.  Only New Hampshire lacks a seat belt law.

More than 90 percent of Americans wear seat belts, and the few who don’t are vulnerable.  More than half of vehicle occupants killed in 2012 were not wearing one (Injury Facts 2015). For 16-to 24-year-olds, seat belt use is significantly lower than other age groups.  Unfortunately, teens and young adults also have a higher risk of a crash due to driver inexperience and impaired driving.  Air bags also help reduce injury in crashes, but only when used with seat belts.  In addition, due to the force of air bags in a crash, children should ride in the back seat of a vehicle until they are at least 13 years old.

Secure Children Safely

The best way to protect children in the car is to put them in the right seat at the right time, and use it the right way.  Restraint use among young children often depends on the driver’s seat belt use.  When the driver is buckled, children are restrained 95% of the time.  When the driver is unbuckled, children are restrained 67% of the time, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.

Car seats reduce the risk of injury by 71% to 82% and reduce the risk of death by 28% compared to children in seat belts, alone.  Booster seats reduce the risk of non-fatal injuries by 45% among 4-to8-year-olds, according to AAA.

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