On March 10, a woman was killed and a man injured when their SUV rolled over on Highway 69.
Neither of them was wearing a seatbelt, and both were thrown from the vehicle as it rolled.
While there’s no way to tell for certain that a seatbelt would have saved the woman’s life, it would have made survival more likely.
“They absolutely save lives,” State Trooper Kameron Lee said. “I have personally seen it.”
Lee said about one-half of the traffic fatality victims in Arizona are not seatbelted, resulting in ejections from the vehicle. That is what happened in the March 10 crash.
“In Arizona, seatbelts are a secondary violation so you cannot be pulled over for not wearing it,” Lee said. But a Trooper can stop you for another violation “and if he notes you are not wearing your seatbelt, you will be cited.
“DPS has a zero tolerance policy for seatbelts and you will be cited.”
Lee said the three most common excuses for not wearing a seatbelt he’s heard are:
• “I just took it off.”
• “It’s broken,” which he said is not often true.
• “I was in a hurry because I just left,” but, Lee said, “It takes less than five seconds to buckle a seatbelt.
“I have heard on occasion something to the effect of, ‘I have a friend who knows someone who would have died if they kept their seatbelt on because the car caught on fire,’ or some other reason,” he related. “While this may be the case, it is very rare.”
“Seatbelts do save lives,” DPS Captain G.R. Manera said. “I don’t want my Troopers or myself to have to tell a family that one of their loved ones was killed in a traffic collision due to circumstances that could have been avoided, like wearing a seatbelt.”
Manera’s list of top three excuses:
• “I am only going a short distance.”
• “It wrinkles my clothes.”
• “I always wear it, but I just forgot.”
“The vast majority of victims that I have seen ejected were fatalities,” Prescott Fire Division Chief Don Devendorf said.
He pointed to a static from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said “people not wearing a seatbelt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash.”
Lee said, “Are seatbelts an end all/be all? No. There are some collisions you may not walk away from no matter what.”
But when you consider that car crashes are the leading cause of death among people 5 to 34 in the U.S., and the CDC says seatbelts can reduce injury and death rates from automobile crashes by 50 percent, it’s still the best bet.
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