Seat belts save lives


By AP Photo
By Sharon Dunten
Maryville Daily Forum
Fri Aug 21, 2009, 08:16 AM CDT

Maryville, Mo. -
Two serious separate car accidents occurred Wednesday night in Nodaway County and were reported by the Maryville Daily Forum. According to law enforcement officials, neither one of the drivers nor their passengers were wearing seat belts.  One died; a Life Net helicopter flew one to Heartland Regional Hospital in St. Joseph; one was transferred by ambulance to Heartland from St. Francis Hospital; and one was taken to St. Francis. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, failure to wear a seat belt contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behavior.  Approximately 63 percent of people killed in automobile accidents were not wearing seat belts.  Today, wearing a seat belt is still the single most effective way of saving lives and reducing injuries on America’s roadways, states NHTA.

Between 2002-2007, Nodaway County’s 13 car accident fatalities occurred with 11 of those individuals not wearing safety belts, states the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. 

In addition, only 1 percent of individuals who were wearing seat belts were ejected from cars during a car accident, says the Naval Safety Center on seat belt safety.

“What it boils down to is the idea that it won’t happen to them,” said Lieutenant Ron Christian of the Maryville Public Safety Department.  The complacency of wearing seat belts is especially seen in young people ages 16-25, said the NHTA.  The majority of the individuals injured in Wednesday’s car crashes were in that age group.

“Young people are not accepting or are unaware what bad things can happen in life,” Christian said.

Despite educational programs or fear of injury, it is hard to reach this age group.  “I try to explain to drivers how important it is to use seat belts and how dangerous it is if you don’t have them on,” said Major Randy Houston, Nodaway County Sheriff Department. Houston said complacency in using seat belts is a big issue.

Missouri state law mandates that a driver and all front seat passengers, unless they are exempt for medical reasons, must use a seat belt when traveling in a motor vehicle.  The driver is responsible for ensuring that all children under 16 years of age, no matter where they are seated in the vehicle, are properly restrained by a seat belt or car seat, and any persons traveling with a driver who has a permit must also use a seat belt no matter where they are seated in the vehicle. 

Missouri imposes a fine of $10 for violation of the Missouri seat belt law if the violation is noted after being pulled-over for another violation. Missouri drivers cannot be pulled over specifically for not wearing a seat belt.

However, the Missouri State also mandates that all children under a specific age/weight requirement must be restrained in a car seat or booster seat. The fine imposed for not properly securing a child in a car seat or booster seat shall not exceed $50. 

To many, there is a mixed message about the state’s seat belt laws.  For instance, the violation of the Missouri seat belt law is not a primary offense, meaning that you cannot be pulled over and cited for violation of the Missouri seat belt law. A seat belt fine will be secondary to the traffic violation that prompted law enforcement officials to pull you over.  Violation of the Missouri seat belt law does not result in points on your Missouri Driving Record.

The Missouri Coalition would like to see the seat belt laws change. They report that a secondary enforcement safety belt law sends the message that wearing a safety belt is not as important as having a burned out license plate light, which is a primary enforcement law.

In addition, only 62 percent of Missouri’s teens wear seat belts compared to the national average of 72 percent of the population. 

Also, studies have shown that after passing a primary seat belt law, about 40 percent of non-wearers converted to wearing seat belts. 

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