Emphasis placed on Buckle Up'

By Staff
Special to the Star
Feb. 10, 2001
Chances are this year someone you know will be involved in a car crash. And if they are unbuckled, that person is 50 percent more likely to be injured or killed.
For many people in recent years, increasing seat belt use has become less of a priority. But the simple fact is that wearing seat belts is the single most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries on America's roadways.
And according to Buckle Up Mississippi, a grassroots public-private coalition aimed at increasing seat belt and child safety seat use, it will also save money.
The higher health care and higher insurance costs that result from unbelted drivers and passengers involved in crashes are passed along.
On average, inpatient hospital costs for an unbelted crash victim are 50 percent higher than those for a belted crash victim. Taxpayers bear 85 percent of those costs, not the individual drivers involved.
Unbelted cash victims also drive up the costs for businesses. Crashes increase costs for health and disability insurance and increase workers' compensation expenses for employers.
Tragically, many of those who die will be children because automobile crashes are the leading cause of death to children. In America, fewer children are properly buckled up than adults. And in a 3 mile-per-hour crash, a child riding unrestrained is hit with a force equivalent to falling from a third story window.
And adults who don't buckle up are sending children a deadly message that it is all right not to use seat belts. Research shows that when a driver is unbuckled, 70 percent of the time children in that vehicle will not be buckled either.
Across the nation, Buckle Up America has begun to build grassroots coalitions to increase the seat belt use rate to 90 percent and reduce child fatalities by 25 percent by the year 2005-saving the nation $8.8 billion and preventing more than 5,500 deaths and 132,000 injuries annually.
Buckle Up America, a public-private partnership of community and health groups, safety advocates, businesses, legislators and other elected officials, law enforcement and concerned citizens, is mobilizing in Mississippi and all across the nation to educate the public and increase belt use by strengthening laws and enforcement.

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