Most important protection in a vehicle crash is a seat belt

Published on Friday, 2 June 2017 15:12 - Written by PATRICE DUNAGIN, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Did you know that driving at night is more dangerous than driving during the day? In fact, the majority - 57 percent - of fatal crashes in Texas happen at night. In 2016, of all Texas crashes in which people died and weren’t wearing a seat belt, 62 percent happened at night. So whether it’s day or night, remember to buckle your seat belt for safety.

You might think that under the cover of darkness, police officers don’t notice unbuckled drivers and passengers - but they do. If you get pulled over, that means facing fines and court costs up to $200. Instead of putting yourself and others in danger, remember: buckle up, even at night.

Taking those few seconds to buckle your seat belt is the most important step you can take to protect yourself in a crash. Fortunately, most Texans now buckle up, but some groups of motorists continue not taking the message to heart and not consistently using their seat belts. The demographic of motorist most likely to be unrestrained are men and young adults, especially pickup truck drivers and passengers.

This year marks the 15th year that the Click It or Ticket campaign to increase seat belt use has been conducted in Texas. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since its inception 15 years ago, this life-saving campaign has resulted in 5,068 fewer traffic fatalities and 86,000 fewer injuries, including more than $19.3 billion saved in related economic costs.

However, from 2015 to 2016, deaths among people not wearing seat belts increased 9 percent. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2016 more than 2,500 people who failed to wear their seat belts were killed or seriously injured. Simply remembering to put on your seat belt increases the chances of surviving a crash by 45 percent in a car, and up to 60 percent in a truck.

After many years of having seat belts as a standard part in vehicles, it would seem that buckling your seat belt before driving off would be second nature. However, some pickup truck drivers and their passengers depend on their larger size vehicle to protect them in a crash. Yet, pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over as passenger cars. Due to pickup trucks’ tendency to roll over in crashes, the consequences are more severe for drivers and occupants not wearing seat belts - including being thrown from the vehicle, or even death.

Unbuckled passengers can also be deadly to others in the vehicle. Most people are not aware of the dangers posed by unbuckled backseat passengers. In a crash, they can become projectiles that are tossed around inside the vehicle, often injuring or killing those in the front seat.

Here’s another good reason to buckle up: It’s the law! Unbelted drivers and adult passengers can face fines and court costs of up to $200. Children younger than 8 must be in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet, 9 inches. Fines issued to drivers for unrestrained children in their vehicle can be as high as $250, plus court costs.

The Click It or Ticket campaign this year will run through Sunday. Extra law enforcement is on the road enforcing the seat belt and child restraint laws in an effort to save lives. Those officers are not out to write tickets, but instead want to help prevent the needless tragedy from motor vehicle accidents. Remember to buckle up day and night and save your life - not just during Click It or Ticket, but every day of the year.

For more information, contact Patrice Dunagin, Smith County FCS agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, at 903-590-2980.