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The Importance Of Safety Belts

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The figures are familiar, 40,000 people die each year in traffic related accidents, which today are the leading cause of death in individuals under the age of thirty-five. However, with the simple use of a properly worn safety belt, more then half of these lives could have been saved. With this information, I believe that the use of a properly worn safety belts is the single most effective way that lives can be saved on America's roadways.

For example, when a car makes contact with an object, the vehicle itself will stop within the first tenth of a second of impact. However, the individual inside will continue at the same speed the vehicle was traveling until another collision occurs stopping them. Unrestrained, the second collision could be with the steering wheel, dashboard, or even the windshield, and at thirty miles per hour would create the same impact caused by falling three stories onto a solid surface such as cement. A properly worn safety belt will keep this second collision from happening, ultimately preventing more injuries and deaths from occurring.

One of the most recent law enforcement efforts to crackdown on the use of seat belts directs attention toward the demographic least likely to buckle up, teens and young adults. "Teens and young adults are killed at far higher rates in crashes because they are caught in lethal intersections of inexperience, risk taking, and low seat belt use," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. "These tragedies are predictable and preventable, using proven techniques like high visibility enforcement mobilizations."

According to recent data from NHTSA, nearly 5,900 teens or young adults, ages 16-20, died in traffic related accidents within the past year. Of these fatalities, an estimated sixty percent were not wearing a safety belt. In essence, researchers believe that most teens do not respond to the possible threat of death or injury that can be caused by vehicle collision. However, teens will respond to the possibility of a ticket. "Cops don't want to write tickets, but they will, because tickets get people to buckle up," said Joseph Samuels, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (ICAP). "So America be on notice- Click It or Ticket. No exceptions. No excuses. No warnings."

Pilot tests conducted for Click it or Ticket in more then twenty states have shown a dramatic increase in seat belt use, almost eight percentage points, and according to the NHTSA each of these points can account for nearly 2.8 million people. National television and radio ad campaigns are now running on several major networks attempting to show the relationship between not wearing your safety belt and the degree of consequences that could arise from failing to buckle up. Chuck Hurly, Executive Director of the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety campaign, which pioneered national seat belt enforcement mobilizations beginning in 1997, states that "The ads help to reach young people who we traditionally can't reach effectively through the news media."

Television and radio however, are not the only way that the mobilization message is being delivered to teens and young adults. Law enforcement agencies across the country are also conducting higher degrees of enforcement around high schools, collages, and shopping malls while working with student groups such as SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) and the National Organization for Youth Safety (NOYS).

Although teens and young adults are at the highest risk with this type of programming, this does not allow older adults, especially those in care of a child, off the



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