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National 'Click It or Ticket' campaign is on

POSTED May 30, 2012 8:32 a.m.
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The National Click It or Ticket seatbelt use campaign is a yearly public education effort aimed at reducing the number of deaths and injuries cause by motorists and passengers failing to wear seatbelts as required by law. Statistically, males ranging in age from 18-34 years are the most likely to not wear seatbelts. The corresponding statistic is that males in that age group are also the most likely to be injured or die in a traffic collision. This year, the seat belt campaign is from May 21 through June 3, but the importance of seatbelt use applies everyday of the year, regardless.

Seat belt use has been proven over and over again to save lives and to reduce the possibility and severity of injuries. Nevertheless, in this society we are a multi-tasking bunch, often in a hurry and not that concerned about the prospects of being involved in a collision. When entering a vehicle while carrying a phone, food and other personal items, fastening a seat-belt may seem like just one more task to hassle with. Then, once on the road, the seat belt is quickly forgotten altogether leaving the non-wearer vulnerable to collision-related dangers. It is an unfortunate fact of life that, when we are in a hurry, minor tasks can seem like major inconveniences, but the logic simply is not there; how can anyone not justify the couple of seconds it takes to use the seat belt and take advantage of all the safety benefits it provides? The answer is, of course, that there is neither logic nor justification to drive off without the seat belt properly clicked in.

There are several seat belt myths that are believed by a significant number of motorists. One is that seat belts are not needed for short trips, like "I am just running to the store a few blocks away." Wrong! Most fatal crashes happen within 25 miles from home and at speeds of less than 40 mph. Some people believe that being in an SUV, owing to their larger size, makes them safer than everyone else in smaller vehicles. A larger vehicle may provide a certain extra measure of safety, but the fact is that people driving larger vehicles, when buckled in, enjoy a reduced risk of fatal injury by 60 percent. One fact I find particularly interesting is that collisions featuring water or fire account for just half of one percent of all crashes. More importantly, in those instances, a person needs to be conscious and physically capable of escaping - which is unlikely if a seatbelt is not worn during the incident.

Another common misconception is that air bag-equipped vehicles are so safe as to make seat belts useless. The truth is that air bags are designed to protect a buckled occupant. When unbuckled, airbags become less effective or worse, can become deadly themselves.

Law enforcement personnel know the effectiveness of seat belt use, and are therefore diligent about enforcing seat belt laws. During this campaign period extra attention is being paid to seat belt violators with strict enforcement. Motorists should also know that the police are wise to "fake-outs," which involve seat belt violators trying to hide their efforts to fasten an unbuckled belt when they see a police officer on the road. Keep in mind that the police are highly experienced and they spend countless hours on the road, enforcing laws and looking for violations. They are wise to motorists trying to fake them out by making it look like their seat belt is fastened when that is not really the case.

The point of this seat belt use campaign is not about the police or the enforcement aspect of it. It is about the nationwide effort to reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths. Everyone wins when there are fewer people who need to be buried, when there are fewer medical costs, when worker productivity is preserved and when there is less misery and heartache. I ask readers to take this message to heart and wear seat belts at all times when driving or when riding as passengers.

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