Parents: Teens will listen to you

Parents: Teens will listen to you By Editorial �Be sure to buckle up.�

Parents who offer this reminder to their teenagers while giving them the keys to the family car may often be met with a deep sigh and a rolling of the eyes.

Guess what?

Don�t stop urging your teens to use seat belts.

Thanks to South Dakota�s stricter seat belt laws and increased media attention, approximately 61 percent of South Dakotans buckle up when they get in a car. Seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury in road accidents and reduces the severity of injury in accidents.

Teen road safety is still a problem in South Dakota, though, according to the Kids Count Factbook prepared annually by The University of South Dakota Business Research Bureau. South Dakota teenagers have higher accident, injury, and death rates in South Dakota as compared to national averages and seat belt use is a factor.

�Parents have an incredible role in child and teen road safety,� said Dr. Sarah Patrick, professor in The University of South Dakota Department of Family Medicine and Director of the Center for Rural Health Improvement.

Dr. Patrick recently worked with the South Dakota Coalition for Children to analyze and interpret surveys on teen seat belt use under funding from Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

Teens and parents in six South Dakota communities participated in surveys and focus groups to provide more information on factors that influenced teen seat belt use.

While moms who participated in the focus groups felt that they were ignored when they reminded their children to buckle up, their kids said that they were listening.

Teens reported that they appreciated their mothers� warnings and knew that they were getting good advice.

�So hang in there mom, don�t feel guilty!� said Dr. Patrick. �You really do have an influence on your child�s behavior.�

As important as a mother�s reminder are the safety practices of both parents. In anonymous questionnaires, teens were asked how often their mothers and fathers wore seat belts. Teens reported that mothers wore seat belts far more often than fathers. Teens who reported that their mothers wore a seat belt were more likely to wear seat belts themselves. The impact was even greater when fathers wore seat belts.

Survey and focus group results point out the need for adult male role models to wear seat belts, modeling good safety behavior. Dr. Patrick�s conclusion: �It is important for every male to wear a seat belt every time they get in a vehicle.�

The Vermillion community has painfully learned during the past summer how quickly young people can be killed or injured in traffic accidents.

There were seven traffic fatalities in six accidents in Clay County since June 16.

Three of the fatalities involved people younger than 25 who lost control of their vehicles. A fourth fatality was a teen-aged passenger in an August rollover accident.

A local man was killed this summer while riding his motorcycle west of Vermillion. A trailer being pulled on a highway broke loose and drifted into his path.

Other recent fatalities involve experienced drivers. A Centerville woman died in a collision on Highway 46 in Clay County July 20.

And, in mid-August, a 50-year-old Iowa man was killed when he lost control of his automobile. His wife survived the crash.

We realize there are some types of accidents � particularly severe ones � where even seat belts aren�t enough to save drivers and passengers.

We shouldn�t ignore, however, the incredible difference in safety that seat belt use can make the majority of the time.

It means, as Dr. Patrick said, that parents need to �hang in there� and keep reminding their teens to buckle up.

Surprisingly, it appears, such admonitions don�t go in one ear and out the other.

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