Lifesaving device too often goes without being used

Friday, May 25, 2012

No one's celebrating the price of gasoline -- down a nickel last week and 32.4 cents lower than a year ago -- but drivers are more likely to think about hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend.

AAA expects 34.8 million Americans to travel 50 or more miles from home this weekend, 1.2 percent or 500,000 more than the 34.3 million who traveled last year.

Unfortunately, in 2012, the state has recorded 65 traffic fatalities, an increase of eight. That's sad news, since we had two straight years of reduced traffic fatalities, with 181 in 2011, the second all-time low.

Of the 53 killed in motor vehicle crashes to date on Nebraska roads, 42 were not wearing seat belts.

Gov. Dave Heineman joined Col. David Sankey, Superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, in urging members of the public to obey the law and buckle up every time they drive.

"The unfortunate reality is too many people are dying on our roadways because they aren't buckling up," Sankey said. "Statistics show wearing your seat belt increases your odds of surviving a crash by up to 50 percent. We encourage all motorists to put the odds in their favor. Obey the law, buckle up."

When you stop in at the pump this weekend, you might be greeted with their message: "Buckle Up or Pay the Price. Click It or Ticket. 2 Tickets 2 Fines."

We hear the same message every big-travel holiday, yet the fatalities continue to pile up, to the frustration of officials like the colonel and governor, not to mention the trauma experienced by survivors and rescue crews.

And, we've noticed far too many cases of roll-over accidents where drivers and passengers are killed because they are not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from their vehicles.

Today's cars are safer than ever, thanks to airbags, antilock braking, traction control and other advances. Yet the one piece of technology that increases your odds of surviving by up to 50 percent, a buckled seatbelt, is too often not employed.

Ignition interlocks, requiring seatbelts to be buckled before the car would start, were abandoned after only one model year nearly 40 years ago after public outcry.

But today's driver is accustomed to cars that can be driven only with the proper key fob in your pocket -- or a sober breath into a court-ordered interlock.

If we're really serious about reducing needless deaths, perhaps it is time to give seat-belt ignition interlocks another look.

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