Editorial: An object lesson in seatbelt safety
File the fact that wearing seatbelts saves lives in the no-brainer folder if you will, but three local residents embody that today.
Surely you saw our Page 1 story Wednesday about a serious three-car accident in Prescott Valley. The pictures indeed speak a thousand words. One car and two pickup trucks smashed to bits; one of the trucks rolled over on its side. Broken glass everywhere. First responders on the scene.
The amazing part? All occupants walked away OK.
The primary reason? All three were wearing seatbelts.
Statistics show that drivers are doing a good job overall strapping themselves in. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in its year-end report, said this past December that seatbelt use among drivers was at 84 percent in 2011. That continues an encouraging trend. Only 58 percent of drivers wore seatbelts, according to the same annual study, in 1994. Meanwhile, the percentage of unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities during the daytime has seen a dramatic drop from 54 percent to 44 percent in the past decade.
Hang on - it's not all good news. Although we out West are far and away the most buckled-in drivers at 93 percent, that number did drop from 95 percent in 2010. Similar downward trends are seen with drivers in the South and Northeast. Drivers in the Midwest are the only region studied who showed an increase last year.
And you pickup drivers have some work to do. Only 74 percent of pickup drivers wear their belts, compared to passenger cars (85 percent) and vans and SUVs (87 percent).
So how are all these numbers determined? By watching us. Trained observers are sent to sampled roadways, including in Arizona, where they observe passenger vehicles between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. A total of 99,320 occupants in 78,324 vehicles at 1,700 data collection sites were analyzed.
If those numbers don't grab you, this will. In 2009 alone, seatbelts saved an estimated 12,713 lives. Research shows that lap/shoulder belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.
Seatbelts work even when drivers don't, pure and simple. Whether statistics show you're driving on a highway back east at night or at the intersection of Glassford Hill Road and Centre Court in Prescott Valley in broad daylight.
You shouldn't need stats to dictate common sense. But they do anyway.