|Even minor fender-benders can cause severe injury to an unrestrainded occupant in a motor vehicle. Twisted metal can usually be repaired, but the life of a passenger or driver who fails to wear a seatbelt cannot be replaced.|
With school drawing to a close and summer rapidly approaching, travelers will be hitting the roadways harder than ever.
With the Memorial Day weekend typically marking the beginning of the vacation season, law enforcement agencies want to ensure that motorists remain safe while traveling.
The annual buckled or busted Memorial Day seatbelt enforcement campaign started May 20 and will continue through June 2.
The campaign is one of several safety efforts scheduled throughout the holiday weekend.
The buckled or busted campaign began last year to encourage travelers to wear seatbelts.
Law enforcement officers across Utah will be monitoring seatbelt usage and issuing tickets to travelers who fail to use the lifesaving devices.
The campaign is part of the buckle up America week. The event is supported by several states in the country, including Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
During the week of May 20, the states will also participate in cracking down on unbuckled motor vehicle drivers and passengers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal traffic accident injury by 45 percent and reduce the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.
Child safety seats reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for youngsters ages 1 to 4 years old. Yet nearly one-third of all Americans do not buckle up.
In the year 2000, more than 8,000 children younger than age 15 were involved in fatal crashes.
Tragically, among the children killed in the traffic accidents, 56 percent were riding unrestrained inside a motor vehicle.
The law enforcement efforts are specifically designed to send a clear message to United States citizens that seatbelts save lives.
If a driver or passenger is not buckled up, a ticket will be issued.
The seatbelt campaign will be conducted in a fair and open manner, according to authorities.
All enforcement agencies will ensure that no segment of the population is targeted unfairly in the effort. The goal is to save lives, not single out individuals or groups.
"Failure to buckle up is always life-threatening and never worth the risk," explained Lou De Carolis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration representative. "Seatbelts should always be worn, even if the car or truck has air bags. Buckle up every trip, every time."
Along with the seatbelt crack down, a week has also been set aside to promote driving safety, particularly for young motorists and child passengers. June 2 to June 8 is designated as driving safety week. The event will kick off national safety month.
According to the Utah Safety Council, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers.
Statistically, teens make up less than 7 percent of the nation's licensed drivers, but are involved in 14 percent of all fatal crashes.
Also, 65 percent of teen passenger deaths occur when another youth is behind the steering wheel.
Finally, 41 percent of fatal crashes involving teenagers occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
To help Carbon County residents minimize the accident risks for local teenage drivers, the safety council recommends:
Setting limits on the number of passengers who will be allowed inside the vehicle when a teenager is driving.
The fewer the better, given that distractions, especially for a new driver, can result in tragic consequences.
Requiring teenage motorists to explain where they plan to go and what route they plan to take.
Require teens to call home when they arrive at their destinations to discourage cruising.
Starting young drivers out with short trips, accompanied by an adult at first.
Allow teens to drive to a friend's house only if they will leave the car there when they go out.
The practice is a good way to break in new drivers and ease the fears of worried parents.
By promoting seatbelt usage in teenagers, lives will be saved, stresses the state agency.
In 1999, 64 percent of youth ages 15 through 18 who died in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing seatbelts.
Lap/shoulder belts, when used properly, reduce 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.
Child passenger safety will also be promoted during driver safety week.
According to the Utah Safety Council, one of the most common mistakes parents make regarding young passengers is that they do not understand the need for different stages of restraint use throughout a child's growth.
Since many state laws only cover children through age 2, many parents assume older youth are safe in just a seatbelt. But that is not the case.
When children outgrow forward facing convertible seats at about age 4 and 40 pounds, the youngsters need to be restrained in a belt-positioning booster devise until they are large enough to properly fit in an adult seatbelt.
The Buckle Up For Love program is designed to encourage more families to utilize motor vehicle seatbelts and child safety restraint devises.
Many hospitals, doctor's offices and health departments participate in the program. By contacting the Utah Safety Council toll-free at 1-800-887-KIDS when residents observe a moving vehicle with an unrestrained child on board, information may be sent to parties to explain the importance of restraining everyone properly every time when riding in a motor vehicle.
To ensure that children are protected while riding in a motor vehicle, the safety council recommends the following:
All children less than four feet, nine inches tall or who weigh less than 80 pounds, should be properly restrained in an appropriate safety seat.
All children 12 years old and younger should be buckled in the back seat of a motor vehicle.
All occupants traveling inside a vehicle should be buckled up at all times.
If a car has air bags, the following precautions should be made.
Never restrain an infant in a rear-facing child safety seat in the front seat of a motor vehicle.
Always properly restrain all children age 12 and younger in the back seat.
All occupants should be buckled up at all times, regardless of the presence of an air bag.
Failure to buckle up contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety related behavior.
Seatbelts are designed so that the forces in a crash are absorbed by the strongest areas of the body, the hip bones, shoulders and chest.
Seatbelts also prevent occupants from being thrown into equipment inside a car or truck, into each other or ejected from the motor vehicle.
Seatbelts provide the greatest protection against occupant ejection, emphasize state and federal traffic safety agencies.
The following seat belt tips will ensure that the maximum protection will be served if a crash occurs.
Wear the lap/shoulder belt combination adjusted so it is low across the hips and pelvis, and never across the stomach.
Sit at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel.
Wear the shoulder belt across the chest and collarbone.
Sit upright and back against the seat.
Make sure all passengers are buckled up.
Serious injury can occur if the following mistakes are made by drivers and passengers traveling inside a motor vehicle:
The belt is worn across the stomach.
The shoulder belt is placed behind the back.
The belt worn under an arm.
The shoulder belt has excessive slack (more than one inch).
The purpose for conducting seatbelt usage campaigns is not to issue citations to offenders, but to prevent serious injury and promote proper safety habits in all drivers and passengers at locations across Utah and the United States.
By promoting awareness weeks, law enforcement and traffic safety agencies feel more motorists will understand that seatbelt usage represents an effective injury prevention tactic.