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Pierce Egerton
Pierce Egerton
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Seatbelts might have prevented devastating tragedy

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A family traveling through North Carolina on their way home from vacation Saturday was struck a heart-breaking blow when a crash took the lives of women from three generations. Those victims were a 22-year-old, her 46-year-old mother, and 71-year-old grandmother.

There were eight family members in the SUV, a Ford Expedition. They were driving home to New York from Disney World when the vehicle blew a tire on northbound Interstate 95 in Wilson County. The driver lost control of the car, which then rolled two or three times.

Five people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Of the three women who lost their lives, two were not wearing seat belts and were thrown from the vehicle.

There are a number of reasons people don’t wear their seatbelts, or excuses they give. A friend once told me he was elated when the state passed its seatbelt law, because it forced his grandmother to give up the excuse that “if you’re in a wreck you’ll be strapped in the car and burn to death.”

I think that most people realize wearing a seat belt makes them safer. And with the public information disseminated about seat belt laws, such as the “Click It Or Ticket” campaign, you would think that people would wear their belts whether they thought it made them safer or not.

So why would anyone not wear them?

These are a few excuses compiled on one government website:

· I don’t wear safety belts anymore, now that I have a car equipped with air bags.

· I buckle up most of the time, but not if I am just going to the corner store a few blocks from my house.

· Wearing a safety belt wrinkles my clothes.

· Seat belts are too uncomfortable.

· We’ll never have a crash—My mom/dad is a good driver. I’m a good driver.

Obviously, these excuses don’t hold up when compared to benefit of a seat belt saving your life.

Because one of the victims in Saturday’s crash was 71, I looked for reasons that older adults don’t buckle up. There are some actual reasons that discourage them from using their seatbelt, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

· Difficulty reaching for shoulder belt and pulling across the body

· Shoulder belt cuts across neck or chokes occupant

· Seat belt puts pressure on skin and chest

· Difficulty inserting latch plate in belt buckle

· Belt buckle and stalk are difficult to locate

These are some of the physical conditions of older adults that result in not buckling up.

· Arthritis, shoulder, and neck pain

· Osteoporosis

· Kyphosis (curving of the spine)

· Increase in fragility due to aging

· Presence of a pacemaker

· Recovery from recent chest or abdominal surgery

· Obesity

If it hurts to wear a seatbelt, it’s pretty likely that a person will end up not wearing it. But there are products such shoulder belt pads and seat belt extenders that make belts more comfortable and easier to use.

The fact is that seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries by about 50 percent. No matter what the age of the driver or passenger, it’s clear that the first order of business when getting in a car is to buckle up. It’s best to make it an automatic process – not a choice, any more than is turning the key in the ignition.