For anyone who complains about getting a ticket for not buckling up when driving or riding in a motor vehicle, here’s a crash course in reality:
• 826 people were killed on Kentucky’s roadways in 2008.
• 55 percent of those killed were not wearing a seat belt.
When worn correctly, seat belts are proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat occupants by 45 percent and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans.
While those may sound like just statistics, those of us at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Office of Highway Safety know from personal experience that those numbers are the actual faces of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles and friends right here in Kentucky. We tell too many families about losses that may have been prevented had a loved one only worn a seat belt.
This goes to the heart of our mission to protect the public. That is why we have joined with thousands of state and local law enforcement and other highway safety agencies nationwide to support the 2009 national Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement mobilization.
The good news is we have seen unprecedented numbers of motorists buckling up over the past several years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts can be credited with saving more than 15,000 lives in 2007 alone.
Thanks in part to high-visibility enforcement campaigns like Click It or Ticket, this has led to an all-time-high observed national seat belt usage rate of 83 percent in 2008 - a 25-percent increase over the past 14 years. However, the tragic reality is that in Kentucky our usage rate is only 73 percent, even with our primary seat belt law.
As we monitor the increase in the number of fatalities so far for 2009, we are gravely concerned. As of today, we have had 271 fatalities this year, compared to 261 this time last year and again, 55 percent of those killed in 2009 so far were not wearing a seatbelt.
People often ask, “Aren’t there more serious criminals on the street other than those who simply are not buckling up? They’re not hurting anyone but themselves.”
To the contrary, the people who choose to disobey the law by not wearing their seat belts are taking a chance with not only their lives, but the emotional and financial health of their families, friends and our community.
Death may be the ultimate consequence for not wearing a seat belt, but even for those who escape a fatal crash, the economic costs of injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes are staggering. Every year motor vehicle crashes cost our country an estimated $230.6 billion. That equals more than $800 per person per year.
Yes, this is a national problem, but law enforcement and first responders see the local faces at too many crash scenes. So, it begins right here in Kentucky.
Law enforcement will be out in force to show our dedication to solving this problem. We want 100 percent of motorists to buckle up. Buckling up costs you nothing, but the costs of not buckling up may be a ticket, or worse - your life. Treat this as a tough and potentially life-saving reminder: Click It or Ticket!
Chuck Geveden is executive director of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety.