Crash survivors owe survival to buckling up

Thursday, March 9, 2006

If the pictures don't get your attention, we don't know what will.

The Nebraska State Patrol released three photographs along with a story about how Roxanne Denny of Doniphan and her three children escaped serious injury when their minivan was struck broadside by a schoolbus last November.

The van flipped on its top, landing in a ditch.

Fortunately -- no it wasn't just luck, we're sure Denny did her share of "nagging" to make sure the kids were properly buckled up -- all four of the passengers were properly restrained.

Only one of her three children received minor injuries.

To make its point, the State Patrol presented the Denny family the agency's Seat Belt Survivor Award.

It's agonizing to hear about stories that don't turn out so well. In fact, rollover fatalities are on the increase -- 105 rollover deaths were reported in Nebraska last year compared to 80 the previous year.

While rollovers account for just 1 percent of total crashes in the state, they are responsibility for nearly 24 percent of all fatalities.

The Nebraska Office of Highway Safety reports that seat belt usage cuts the risk of death or serious injury in a crash by up to 50 percent. At the same time, however, one out of every five Nebraskans does not use seat belt.

Nationally, 82 percent of drivers use seatbelts, the highest compliance ever, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has helped fatalities reach an historic low: 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

At that rate of usage, the NHTSA estimates safety belts are preventing 15,700 fatalities and 350,000 serious injuries.

If the facts aren't enough to make us buckle up, maybe our checkbooks will. Using seatbelts saves an estimated $67 billion in economic costs associated with traffic injuries and deaths every year.

Nebraska has a secondary seat belt law, meaning drivers are only ticketed for not wearing a seat belt if they are stopped for some other reason. Under a primary law, drivers can be stopped and ticketed for not buckling up.

Under a federal law enacted last August, an additional $498 million will be available to states, over the next four years, which adopt a primary seat belt laws or achieve 85 percent seat belt usage.

That means more federal money will come back to improve Nebraska's roads if more of us will just buckle up -- or if the Legislature imposes tighter restrictions.

But the best reason to buckle up, of course, is safety, for ourselves and those we love.

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