Editorial: Buckle Up Or Die

Last week a horrific accident left four teenage friends dead; they were reportedly out for a night at the movies dead. They were travelling in the same vehicle on the Southern State Parkway, driven by a fifth friend, Joseph Beer, 17-years-old, behind the wheel illegally, with only a learner’s permit.

This week there has been an outpouring of support for Beer in the form of an online petition to Nassau County District Attorney Karen Rice pleading for her not to file charges against the teen that is suspected to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. Toxicology reports could take up to a few weeks before confirmation is established.

But there is more here at the center of this tragedy. As though unlicensed operation of a vehicle and possible substance use is not enough to place the youths in danger, none of the passengers in the car, all of whom were killed instantly, were wearing seat belts. Ironically Joseph Beer, the driver and sole survivor of the crash, is the only one of the car’s occupants that was wearing a seat belt.

Studies over the last ten years show that the highest percentage of vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes were not wearing restraints; further, people in the age range of 15-21 had the highest percentages out of all age groups.
According to the National Organization for Youth Safety, ejection from the vehicle is one of the injurious events that can happen to a person in a crash. In fatal crashed in the year 2008 alone, 77% of passenger vehicle occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. On the flip side of that coin is a statistic provided by the Naval Safety Center– only 1% of passengers who were restrained during a crash were ejected from the vehicle they were travelling in.

For those who have never passed the grisly scene of an accident involving an ejection, consider yourselves very lucky. It is probably one of the most gruesome roadside encounters one could have. But perhaps there is a real disadvantage for those who have escaped witnessing such an event.

For it is safe to say that anyone who has had the unfortunate experience of being in the wrong place at the right time and has been a witness to the horror, one thing is for sure: you will never again get in a car and not put your seat belt on –not even if you were just going around the corner.

Research has shown conclusively that lap/shoulder seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45%. For passengers travelling in the backseat at the time of a crash, wearing a seat belt is 44% more effective at preventing death than riding unrestrained. For those riding in the rear of vans or SUV’s, rear seat belts are 73%better at preventing fatalities.

So tell us, how many people suffering from cancer and other life threatening diseases would not jump for joy if they were ever told that they had a 44-73% chance to beat their disease? It seems a no-brainer that anyone would want to increase their chance of survival so dramatically simply with the compliance of one rule stated simply in a jingle– buckle up for safety, buckle up.

Sadly, it always takes the loss of life to discuss the prevention of the loss of life in the future. But on this front have we not been reminded enough times, whether through personal experience or the recounting of a strangers tragedy, to use our seat belt as a life-saving measure?

To us the answer is a resounding YES. For those of you responsible enough never to travel without your belt on, we ask that you implore non-conformers in your midst to wear their belts. We also encourage our readers to ask legislators to fight for laws that enact stiff penalties for those in violation of seat belt laws.

As many as 17,000 people could be saved every year by wearing a seat belt. We hope you’ll choose to be a part of that set of statistics. It’s as simple as this: buckle up or die.


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