The Message Is Simple: Buckling Seat Belts Saves Lives


April 12, 1992|By Sharon Hornberger

The car struck a curb and went careening out of control in the recent accident on Uniontown Road near The Greens in Westminster.

The car flipped onto its roof, but the driver was not hurt.

She was wearing her seat belt.

The message is clear: Seat belts save lives.

"I'm a good driver," some say. "I never travel far from home, and I don't need to wear seat belts."

The sobering fact is that most accidents occur within 25 miles of home, with most serious injuries and deaths at speeds of less than 40 miles per hour.

"I wouldn't think of putting my baby in a restraint seat," some will say. "She's fine in my arms."

That's hogwash.

A baby may weigh comparatively little, but in an accident, an unrestrained infant can become a projectile.

In a crash at speeds as low as 10 miles per hour, the forces on front-seat occupants can reach 20 times the force of gravity. In such an accident, an unrestrained 12-pound child can exert a 240-pound force on the arms of the person holding the child.

Under such conditions, a baby would be almost impossible to hold. Ifan unbelted adult is holding the baby, that infant could be crushed between the adult and the instrument panel in an accident.

The statistics on seat belt use -- and lack of use -- are phenomenal.

In all automobile accidents from 1900 to 1984, 2,533,765 Americans have died. That's more than double the number of Americans killed in all U.S. wars since the American Revolution.

The total cost of all U.S.traffic deaths and injuries is more than $60 billion a year. When wecompound this number over all the years, it becomes an astronomical drain on our resources.

When we look to the workplace, we see thatmotor vehicle accidents represent the No. 1 cause of lost work time and on-the-job fatalities, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The loss of time and money due to failure to use seat belts can be eliminated with one simple step. Wear your seat belt.

The probability of being involved in a motor vehicle accident during a 75-year lifetime is greater than 86 percent.

Look at it thisway: For every 100 people, age 75 or older, 86 of them will have been in a motor vehicle accident at some time in their lives.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says there are three possible impacts in an automobile crash:

* The car hits a stationary object.

* Apassenger's body slams against the car's interior.

* Internal organs jar against the surrounding skeletal structure.

It's not the first impact that kills or injures so much as the second and third.

Belted drivers are in better control of their cars. Unbelted passengers can become flying missiles in a crash.

Safety belts offer protection.

Westminster police say seat belt use in the city has greatly improved. In 1989, drivers of 57 percent of vehicles observed werewearing their lap and shoulder harness. In 1990, the number rose to 64 percent.

Westminster police statistics show driver use of lap and shoulder harness increased to 71 percent in 1991. So far this year, 77 percent were wearing the life-savers.

The word is spreading.

The good news in all of this is that through education, lives are being saved.

Safety belt laws are no infringement on personal liberty.

Seat belts save lives.

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