Emphasize with teens to use seatbelts

Published 7:01 am Sunday, May 29, 2016

QUESTION: What can we emphasize with our teen drivers about seat belt use?

ANSWER: We can say, again and again, buckle that seat belt even when you are a passenger in the back seat and buckle that seat belt especially when you are in a truck. For whatever reasons, younger drivers tend to put themselves at unnecessary risk when they are back seat passengers or when they are in trucks.

Unbelted passengers get seriously injured and killed in car crashes. Make sure that your teen can tell you what three impacts happen with every crash: No. 1: the car slams into the second vehicle or barrier, No. 2: a body slams into the steering column, the dashboard, the windshield, a window or another body, and No. 3: the brain slams into the skull. If you love a teenager, sound like a broken record talking about the absolute necessity of always wearing a seat belt.

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Police officers who are at the site of vehicle crashes make it very clear that if you roll a truck on any road, you will be ejected from the truck and be crushed to death. For whatever reasons, male truck drivers are most likely to choose to risk injury and death by not buckling seat belts. If you love the driver of a truck, pressure him to use that seat belt.

Our drivers in greater Minnesota are at greater risk for traffic injuries; 80 percent of Minnesota’s traffic fatalities occur on rural roads. Nationally, traffic deaths occur on rural roads at a rate of 2.5 times higher than on all other roads. During May, 2015, the results of the Mower County law enforcement observational surveys before and after the seat belt enforcement wave averaged 93.4 percent. This year’s May pre-enforcement survey in Mower County was 89.6 percent.

I am always amazed that research continues to show that the potential of dying a horrible death, causing someone else to die a horrible death, being seriously injured yourself or causing someone else to be seriously injured are not proven motivators for buckling seat belts. The top motivator is that it will cost you money not to buckle your seat belt. Seat belt use is now a primary law: police officers will immediately give a ticket if anyone in the car is not buckled up when the car is in motion. Expect a fine of $100. This year, May 23 to June 5th are the targeted enhanced law enforcement weeks in Minnesota for seat belt violations.

For more information on talking with children and youth about safe driving, check out the Safe Communities section at www.familiesandcommunities.org, and free resources at the Parenting Resource Center Specialty Library (105 First Street SE, Austin).