Week sees most fatalities in five years; seatbelt non-usage a factor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 24, 2002

During the past weekend, at least 12 people died on Alabama's roadways, making it the deadliest weekend in the state for driving in nearly five years.

15 people were killed overall, including three pedestrians, according to Trooper Donald Frazier, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, who added that there has not been such a high number of fatalities over a two-day weekend since 1997.

The 15 fatalities came one week after 12 fatalities were recorded, making that the second highest number of fatalities for this year.

It has also been noted by the State Troopers that only four of the 12 motorists killed during last weekend were actually wearing seat belts.

According to the National Safety Council Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign, states with primary seat belt laws, which allow police to stop and ticket a driver for not wearing a seat belt, have seat belt use that is consistently 10 to 15 percentage points higher than secondary law states.

According to the agency's web site, it is a fact that adults who don't buckle up are far less likely to buckle their kids.

National crash data indicates that when a driver is buckled up, children riding in the same vehicle are buckled up 94 percent of the time. However, when a driver is unbuckled, the children are buckled up only 30 percent of the time.

Every state has primary enforcement seat belt laws covering children, but still six out of every ten children killed in crashes are not properly restrained.

The National Safety Council reported that safety belt has remained level over the past four years or so despite regional, state and national education programs stressing critical health and safety messages relating to safety belt and child restraint use.

Public opinion studies show that people know they should wear seat belts and have very high retention of safety warnings, but that many who ignore these warnings have "fatalistic" views, that if they are going to die in a car wreck, a seat belt will not prevent this from happening.

Other key facts should be considered above all, however, such as:

Seat belts are estimated to save 9,500 lives per year.

According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation web site, research has found that the proper use of lap/shoulder belts reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.

If 90 percent of motorists on our nation's roads buckled up, an estimated 5,536 additional fatalities and 132,700 additional injuries annually.

To get the most benefit out of your seat belt, you should wear it low over the pelvis with the bottom edge touching the tops of the thighs. The shoulder belt should be worn over the shoulder and across the chest, not under the arm and over the abdomen. Make certain the shoulder belt is not worn so loosely that it slides off your shoulder. Pregnant women should wear the lap belt below the abdomen and the shoulder belt above the belly.

Some drivers or passengers use the fear of entrapment for not wearing

seat belts, but only one-half of one percent of all crashes end in fire or submersion. Most crash fatalities result from the force of impact or from being thrown from the vehicle, not being entrapped.

For those who choose to disregard wearing seat belts on short trips, it should be noted that three out of four fatal crashes occur within 25 miles of the crash victim's home.