EDITORIAL: No excuse to not buckle up

Aug. 14, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

For the effort of a few seconds, it can save your life or the life of someone you love. It is a protection that comes standard in any vehicle, at no additional charge or inconvenience, and yet some still — for whatever reason — don’t use it.

But according to the results of a recently released survey, more North Carolinians than ever are buckling up their seatbelts. To be exact, 90.6 percent of the state’s drivers and passengers are taking this precaution; locally, law enforcement confirms that a majority of motorists are doing so.

That’s good news, but not great. Despite the well-worn safety statistics, and general knowledge of the deaths that are prevented by seatbelts, nearly one in 10 people in our state still don’t use them.

It’s not because they didn’t get the message. Human beings are just such that they assume the worst can’t happen to them — until it does. Teens and young people are especially apt to believe they are indestructible, so it makes sense that seatbelt usage reportedly is lowest among this demographic.

Anyone who fails to heed the warnings should reconsider, and take the following facts into account. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in the first three decades of Americans’ lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among drivers and front-seat passengers, seatbelts reduce the risk of death by a reported 45 percent and the risk of serious injury by 50 percent.

The odds of dying in motor vehicle accident are somewhere between one in 50 and one in 100 in the course of a lifetime — odds that could be dramatically reduced simply by reaching over one’s shoulder and fastening a buckle.

Nationwide, seatbelt usage has been on an upswing since 1995, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation — but is it for the right reasons? Increased enforcement certainly is a major driver of this trend, as authorities acknowledge. 

And if we’re honest, all of us are prone to forgetting, occasionally or frequently. And most of us have told ourselves, “It’s OK, I’m not going far,” or “I’m almost there — doesn’t make much difference now.” If it takes the threat of a ticket to engage our better judgment, so be it.

But for a host of reasons, going without is a risk not worth taking.