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May 22, 2006
Buckle Down and Buckle Up, America!

If you think everybody these days wears a seat belt when he or she drives, think again. Believe it or not, after all these years, a significant percentage of American drivers still don't buckle up. That's why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designates 1 week in May every year as Buckle Up America Week. Be sure to take time for a safety meeting on the importance of seat belt use. Here's some ammunition you can use to make the point.

Why wear a seat belt? Seat belt use is the single most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries on America's roadways. It's been estimated that seat belts currently save some 10,000 lives a year. If even just 90 percent of drivers buckled up, more than 5,000 deaths and well over 100,000 injuries could be prevented every year. One of those lives could be yours or that of someone you love.

Why It Matters...
  • Every hour someone dies in America simply because he or she didn't buckle up.
  • Failure to buckle up contributes to more fatalities than any other single safety-related driving behavior.
  • Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of dying in a traffic crash by 45 percent in a car and by as much as 60 percent in a truck or SUV.
  • Research shows that if the driver's seat belt is not buckled, 70 percent of the time, children riding in that vehicle won't be buckled either.

Why do people fail to buckle up? There are probably as many reasons as there are people driving around without seat belts. But here are a few of the most common, accompanied by an argument against such unsafe behavior:

  • "I'm just going a few blocks to the store." Most accidents happen within a few miles of home.
  • "I'm a safe driver. I won't have an accident." You may be a safe driver, but what about the guy who hits you?
  • "Seat belts are uncomfortable." How comfortable do you think a neck brace or cast is? Or a coffin, for that matter?
  • "I don't want to get trapped in the car in case of an accident." You are much more likely to be hurt or killed in an accident because you go through the windshield or are thrown from the vehicle.

How buckling up protects. Seat belts are remarkably effective in minimizing injuries and preventing fatalities. Seat belts:

  • Hold you in place so that you don't crash into the dashboard, steering wheel, or windshield. That's very important, because a crash at only 30 miles per hour can send a 150-pound person who is not wearing a seat belt into the steering wheel or dashboard with a force of more than 2 tons.
  • Keep you from being thrown from the vehicle. You're much more likely to be killed if you're thrown from a vehicle onto the road, into a tree, etc.
  • Allow your shoulder and hip bones, which are the strongest areas of the body, to take most of the shock of the impact instead of your delicate internal organs.
  • Make it more likely that you will remain conscious after a crash and be able to help yourself and others.
  • Even if you're not in an accident, help keep you in place if you have to suddenly swerve, brake, or accelerate.
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