Wakonda students learn about seat belt safety from Officer Dallas Schnack

Wakonda students learn about seat belt safety from Officer Dallas Schnack by Ally Eckert Throughout the fall students in Wakonda have been visited by the school resource officer Dallas Schnack. He has talked to almost every class to tell students how to prevent the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 2 and 25 � car accidents.

Schnack works on most of the accidents in Clay County.

"On average there are two or three fatal accidents a year in Clay County," he said. "This summer, over a 60-day period, there were six."

South Dakota has one of the lowest percentages of people who wear seat belts at about 60 percent. According to state law, all front seat passengers must wear a seat belt and any occupants under 18 must wear a seat belt. This also includes riders in the bed of a pickup.

The driver is also responsible for all passengers under the age of 18 and can be ticketed if they aren't wearing a seat belt. This also includes that children under 5 must be in safety seats. If the passenger is 14 or older they can be ticketed.

Schnack showed slides of several accidents that he had worked on. Many of the accidents involved the two main factors in most accidents, speed and alcohol, but most of the injuries sustained by the occupants could have been lessened by wearing seat belt.

Though speeding is a leading cause of many accidents and injury, you only need to be traveling at a speed of 45 mph to separate your aorta from your heart.

South Dakota has the second highest percentage of alcohol related deaths and 75 percent of fatal accidents involving drivers 15-25 had been drinking.

Many people say they know of an accident in which the person that wasn't wearing a seat belt was saved because they didn't wear one. But according to Schnack, in his 11 years of working on accidents, he has never seen one person that was better off without a seat belt.

"The only way that they would be better off with out a seat belt," said Schnack, "was if there was an explosion or if the car was underwater."

Schnack also shared some interesting facts about air bags. Some people think that if they don't wear a seat belt, the air bag will save them. In actuality, the air bag is designed to work with the seat belt. The airbag doesn't guarantee an injury-free accident either. Air bags come out at such a force that they can break the windshield.

Most people have a sticker on their visors that say that children under 12 should ride in the back seat because of airbags. This is because children under 12 and less than 80 pounds are more likely to sustain injuries from the air bag when it inflates.

If all that didn't convince you that seat belts are important here's some statistics to think about:

* The driver of the car is five times more likely to die if they aren't wearing a seat belt.

* The risk of front seat passengers who aren't wearing seat belts is 45 percent.

* Seat belts reduce fatal injuries by 71 percent.

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