Our view: Making the right choice is as simple as putting on your seat belt
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The impact of a car crash at 60 mph without a seat belt is equivalent to falling from 12 stories high. Not a pretty graphic, but possibly one that would be valuable for new drivers (as well as a lot of experienced ones) to be exposed to in order to understand how one small decision could mean the difference between life and death. Perhaps a virtual simulator would be a good idea – one that would allow a new or renewing driver to experience the visual and audial impact of an unbelted or distracted driving crash.
In rollover crashes, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) reports unbelted motorists are usually ejected from the vehicle. In most cases, the vehicle will roll over them. Often, unbelted motorists will crack teeth out on steering wheels or break their noses, and even slam into and injure or kill others in the vehicle.
In a crash, odds are six times greater for injury if a motorist is not buckled up.
The DPS – and this newspaper – have been hammering home that message for quite some time now with educational messages, crash statistics and news of special enforcement campaigns. Still, too many unbelted or distracted crashes continue to occur, and teens and young adults continue to be the primary victims. That’s a daunting thought as we enter into prime season for high school graduations and the parties and student driving activities that accompany the end of school and the advent of summer.
Chances are, few young people are even aware that of the state’s 878 motorist traffic deaths during 2009-2011, 43 percent of victims were not buckled up, and of those unbelted victims, 48 percent were age 30 or younger. Of the 377 unbelted deaths, 80 percent occurred outside the seven-county Twin Cities’ area.
Statistics are a good thing, but what will actually save lives is diligent enforcement on the part of drivers themselves, instructors, parents, and, most especially, peers.
If that’s not enough, from now through June 3, some 400 law enforcement agencies will increase seat belt patrols in an effort to stop preventable deaths and injuries. With graduations and Memorial weekend upon us, the timing is right to send a message to motorists who might be willing to tempt fate by not buckling up or keeping their attention on their driving.
“At any given moment on the road, we are traveling alongside speeding, aggressive, distracted and impaired drivers,” stated Donna Berger, DPS Office of Traffic Safety director. “The best defense we have in the case of a crash, and the smartest step to avoid a ticket, is to be buckled up.”
Make it your first thought as you climb behind the wheel – and after that, keep your mind on the road.