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Seat belt safety important to remember in light of recent fatalities

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By Kathryn Jacewicz, Staff writer

Saferoads.org, an advocate for highway and auto safety Web site, reports 55 percent of those killed in traffic crashes in 2006 were not wearing seat belts.

As we know, the two West Brunswick students who died after a fatal car wreck earlier this month were not wearing seat belts. Two of the three passengers that survived were wearing seat belts at the time of impact.

At times like these, it’s always a question of, “What if?”

Another Web site with seat belt safety data stated young males ages 16-25 are the least likely to wear seat belts, and young people ages 16-25 are typically in the highest risk category to become involved in car accidents.

Everyone knows someone who refuses to wear a seat belt because they know somebody who knows somebody who was seriously injured, maybe even killed, in a crash due to the seat belt. And everyone’s guilty of forgetting to put it on at least a time or two.

I even get in my car sometimes in the morning, in a hurry to get going, and think, “I work less than a mile from here. I’ll be OK.”

But too often, it’s those instances where a seat belt could have saved a life.

Saferoads states lap-shoulder belts reduce the risk of fatalities to front-seat passengers by 45 percent, and reduce moderate to critical injuries by 50 percent.

In 2004, more than 15,000 people’s lives were saved by wearing seat belts. That same year, more than 21,000 lives could have been saved by wearing a seat belt.

When reading those numbers, I wonder why I would ever want to chance being part of that statistic.

My brother-in-law works in the trauma unit at an Indianapolis hospital and sees firsthand the result of non-seat belt wearing injuries. He won’t start his car without everyone putting a belt on and he will not ride in a car until everyone else does the same.

Maybe it hits closer to home when you have a friend or family member who has been killed, or you yourself have been injured in a car wreck due to the lack of a seat belt.

Even Ryan, my OnStar friend who gave me directions last week, reminded me to always buckle up before disconnecting the call.

While we can’t go back and change any decisions previously made, all we can do is try to make the best decisions for ourselves and always remember to buckle up. The next life saved by a seat belt may be your own.