Buckling up saves lives, reduces injuries

Buckling up saves lives, reduces injuries By From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration As you may know from experience, automobile crashes happen without warning. Every 14 seconds someone is injured in a traffic crash and every 14 minutes someone is killed. In an instant, a family's life can change. No one can quantify the emotional cost of losing a loved one. But the financial and social costs of crashes are both real and tangible: Crashes cost America more than $150 billion a year � an average of $580 per person. How can we reduce these costs? It's simple: get more people to buckle up themselves and their children.

The cost of unbuckled drivers and passengers goes far beyond those killed and the loss to their families. We all pay � in higher taxes, higher health care and higher insurance costs. On average, inpatient hospital care costs for unbuckled crash victims are 50 percent higher than for those who are belted and society bears 85 percent of those costs, not the individuals involved. Increasing national seat belt use from the current 69 percent to 90 percent would save an estimated 5,536 lives, prevent 132,670 injuries, and save America nearly $9 billion every year.

To save lives and protect children, we must do more to raise adult seat belt use in this county. According to national crash data, when a driver is buckled up, children are buckled up 94 percent of the time; however, when a driver is unbuckled, children are restrained only 30 percent of the time. We know what works: Strong, primary enforcement seat belt laws � those that allow police to stop and ticket a driver for not wearing a seat belt � and a stronger enforcement of those laws. Stronger laws and enforcement get drivers and their child passengers buckled up.

Some will argue that it is a matter of "personal freedom" to drive unbuckled. But the fact is, in our society personal freedoms stop where other people are injured or killed. This is especially true when it comes to children's safety. Crashes are devastating to unbuckled children. A child unrestrained in a 30-mile-per-hour crash is like a child dropped from a third story window. Yet adults who do not buckle up are sending children a deadly message that it is all right not to use seat belts.

Nobody is immune to the deadly and costly effects of unbuckled drivers. And the work to get everyone buckled up cannot be done solely by individuals and community groups. Businesses, too, must get involved. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities. Crashes drive up costs for health and disability insurance and increase workers' compensation expenses for employers. Businesses can participate by creating mandatory seat belt policies within their organizations and by using their resources and clout to help pass stronger laws and support seat belt and child safety seat enforcement efforts.

Buckling up is still the most effective and immediate way to save lives and reduce injuries from crashes on America's roadways. Unlike so many of the complex problems facing America today, we have the solution. It is so simple � just buckle up. And because we are all personally affected when even one person does not buckle up, we all must be a part of the solution.

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