Stay alive: buckle up before you drive...Every trip, every time, everybody!

Stay alive: buckle up before you drive
Every trip, every time, everybody!

"Stay Alive: Buckle Up Before You Drive." That is the message from the nation's emergency physicians who witness first-hand the tragic consequences of driving without safety belts, following release of a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that 48 million Americans still do not wear safety belts.
"Every hour someone in America dies simply because they were not wearing a safety belt," said Dr. Mary Patricia McKay, chair of the Trauma Care and Injury Control Committee of the American College of Emergency Physicians and an emergency physician at The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC. "Failure to buckle up contributes to more fatalities than any other single behavior except drunk driving. The majority of all injuries and deaths from traffic crashes are preventable."
Dr. McKay said besides putting themselves at risk for serious injury or death, safety belt scofflaws drain as much as $50 billion from society annually in medical care, lost productivity and other costs. Crash victims who did not wear safety belts cost hospitals 55 percent more than those who did wear safety belts. The net cost of these crashes is approximately $580 per American per year.
Safety belt use is significantly higher in states with primary enforcement of safety belt laws--those that allow police to pull a vehicle over simply for an occupant's failure to use a belt, just like every other traffic violation-- which is why ACEP advocates for adoption and enforcement of primary safety belt laws. But laws alone are not enough: parents must lead the way with their own model behavior.
Adults who make safety belt use a habit set a critical example for children who ride with them. When a driver does not buckle up, 76 percent of the time the children riding with them are not buckled up either. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American children, adolescents, and young adults. The human cost is incalculable, but the economic price is also very high: The annual cost of motor vehicle occupant-related death and injury exceeds $25.8 billion for children ages 14 and under. All children must be restrained in a car in an age-appropriate manner.
Common reasons for not wearing safety belts include forgetting and the irrational fear of being trapped inside the car. Some adults carry the false impression that safety belts are unnecessary if they ride in the backseat or travel only a short distance; others fear wrinkling their clothes.
"The benefits of wearing a safety belt cannot be overstated in the event of a crash," said Dr McKay. "Some of the worst injuries are sustained by unbelted occupants who are ejected from the vehicle onto asphalt, or into a tree. As emergency physicians, we see pain and suffering every day, much of it unavoidable. The most heartbreaking injuries and deaths are the ones that could have been so easily prevented. Safety belts save lives--please use them!"
The bottom line: Buckle up every trip, every time, everybody! The life you save could be your own. Make your trips this summer safe!