What is the first thing you do when you get into your car? Adjust the radio or pop in that new CD? I hope not. If you are involved in an accident, your parents won’t be going to the morgue to identify the CD as the new one from Pearl Jam or R.E.M. that they just bought you. If you were not wearing a seat belt, they might have to face the most terrible tragedy and the toughest decisions of their lives: notifying relatives, facing your friends, making funeral arrangements, and finally packing away your belongings, each one holding a precious memory.
If it seems morbid, ask any police officer who has responded to the scene of a traffic fatality. Morbid is a mild word describing the devastating results and the emotional turmoil that follow for all who were touched by the tragedy.
“It will never happen to me. I’m a great driver,” some people say. Statistics reveal that thousands of people are injured or killed each year because the “other driver” made the mistake. The victims of fatal car accidents often broke no laws, had the right of way, were even good drivers, but they made the fatal mistake of not wearing a seat belt. It could happen, even to an “invincible teenager.”
A recent survey of Spokane drivers shows that only 36 percent wear seat belts regularly. I wonder if the other 64 percent realize that by wearing a seat belt they can reduce the chance of injury in an accident by 50 percent. Maybe more people will start to buckle up when they discover that Washington State troopers write $66 tickets to people who do not wear safety restraints.
If your best friend died because he or she decided not to wear a seat belt, would you start wearing one? I only hope it won’t take that type of tragedy for teens to become more aware of the value of a seat belt. In the last two years, seat belts have saved an estimated 18,000 lives. Sadly, four teens and an older friend from Deer Park were killed last week, in part because they didn’t wear seat belts.
It seems so simple, yet so many people refuse to buckle up. Imagine, something that takes less than five seconds could save your life. To me, it is not something to think about; it is something I just do. I hope you will too.