It’s true what they say: Seat belts save lives

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Losing loved ones to automobile accidents is horrible any day of the year, but the despair is surely multiplied when the calamity occurs Christmas Day. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of two individuals who died in a head-on collision on Route 18 in Washington County’s Morris Township on Christmas.

One fact stood out for us in the initial report from Pennsylvania State Police and in our subsequent reporting: One of the drivers who died was not wearing a seat belt, while there was “no evidence” that the second driver was using a seat belt.

The two survivors of the crash, a child and another passenger, were properly restrained.

Though seat belts will not assure anyone’s survival in an auto accident, their use increases the likelihood of survival appreciably.

According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts save an estimated 11,000 lives per year.

They also have been found to reduce the severity of crash-related injuries.

Traffic fatalities have declined considerably in recent years, to levels not seen since the 1940s, even though there are many more vehicles on our streets and highways, traveling many more miles than they there were six or seven decades ago.

Some of the decline in deaths can be credited to improved vehicle design and public awareness of the toll that drinking and distracted driving can take.

But the increased use of seat belts over the last 40 years or so, and tougher laws targeting drivers and passengers who don’t use them, have also played a vital part.

In 2012, the NHTSA reported that 86 percent of motorists were wearing seat belts.

“We know that buckling up can make a life-saving difference,” said Linda Degutis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If you are part of the 14 percent that does not use a seat belt, we can’t think of many better New Year’s resolutions than joining the 86 percent that do.

Just think: You’ll improve your odds of seeing Dec. 31, 2014.

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