Monday, April 20, 2009

Buckle Up

As I drove down Mill Road in my rusty, red farm truck, I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed the familiar red and blue flashing lights behind me. In a split second several questions raced through my mind. Am I speeding? A quick look at the speedometer tells me no. Did I stop completely at the stop sign I just went through? Yes. It must be my turn signal. I hadn’t used it because it was broken. That had to be it. I was busted for not using my turn signal. However, to my shock and surprise, the reason, so I thought, was far more aggravating. I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt!

I rarely go unbuckled, but for some reason when I slide into the cab of the truck, it doesn't cross my mind to strap in.

The officer acted as if I was the most unsafe motorist he’d ever encountered and I was lucky he couldn’t yank my driver’s license away for good, and toss it into the bottomless pit of non seatbelt wearing violators.

Gee-wiz, it wasn’t like I broke the law or something!

Then I remembered; I had, indeed broken the law. My first reaction led me to think it was a waste of time for this police officer to pull me over, wag his “shame on you” finger and scold me for not being safe. Although I was truly aggravated and embarrassed for being pulled over, I realized that the police officer was right to be so stern with me. It was a serious thing to be unbuckled. Not only could I have caused injury to myself, had I been in an accident, but I could have been killed in the process. This experience has provided me with the opportunity to really think about the seriousness of safety belt use and our current laws regarding them. Ultimately its leading me to firmly believe in the gravity of their use and the importance of having a law in place demanding them to be worn.

I came across some really crazy statistics that were quite alarming to me, and made me think twice about not strapping in. These facts were discovered in a study done in 2004 by James Madison University. The facts that were revealed were so alarming that they may very well change the mind of any individual who is set in their ways and not buckling up.

- One out of every five drivers will be involved in a traffic crash this year.

- Approximately 35,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year. About 50 percent of these people could have been saved if they wore their safety belts.

- In a 30 mph collision, an unbelted 160 lb. person can strike another passenger, crash through a windshield and/or slam into the vehicles interior with a 4,800 lb. force.

- Safety belt use is one of the best defenses against the unpredictable actions of a drunk driver.

- A common cause of death or injury to children in motor vehicles is being crushed by adults who are not wearing safety belts. One out of four serious injuries to passengers is caused by occupants being thrown into each other.

That last one is what did it for me!

- About 80 percent of all injuries to children in car crashes are injuries to the head, causing brain damage, permanent disfigurement, epilepsy or death.

- Of every 100 children who die in motor vehicle crashes, at least 80 would survive if they were properly secured in an approved child safety seat or safety belt.

- An estimated 80 percent of American children are immunized against contagious diseases, but less than 10 percent are properly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle.

No one wants to be told what to do, and many drivers are determined not to wear them for any number of reasons...they are too confining, uncomfortable, inefficient or because they just don't want the intrusion of the government in they're private lives.

It’s easy to think that nothing tragic can happen when the comfort of traveling in an automobile for years without an accident allows you to feel a sense of false security. The truth of the matter is, an accident can occur at a split second and wearing a seatbelt can mean the difference between life and death.

Laws for seatbelt use are in place to save lives, however it’s disturbing to learn that although virtually every state has standard laws that allow enforcement officers to stop and ticket a violator for having a broken tail light or for tossing trash out the window, most states currently do not have standard laws for seat belt use.

All I know is this: the next time I slide into the seat of that beat up pick-up truck, I won’t make the same mistake and ride unbuckled. Never again will a Police Officer pull me over for not being properly restrained. In fact, I should be thanking the officer who stopped me for giving me the opportunity to reflect on the usage of seatbelts. And although my pride was a bit bruised when the officer got after me, and made me feel like a little kid for not doing what I was supposed to, I learned that sometimes it takes a good scolding to understand something important.

Post script
For all of you readers that see that last statement as an invitation to shake your fist at me and give me a piece of their mind, please reconsider your motives as I tend to be very stubborn and rarely take criticism well. :)

No comments: