Chief: How to Save Your Life in a Crash

Seat belts remain a lifesaver, the chief says.

As part of a nationwide effort to save lives, the Grafton Police Department will be extra vigilant to ensure that Grafton motorists are buckling up during the Massachusetts "Click It or Ticket" mobilization now through June 3.

The message is simple: Massachusetts drivers and passengers should always wear their seat belts or be ready to face the consequences. 

This special crackdown is designed to increase seat belt use and decrease motor vehicle fatalities and injuries. Too many people still have the reckless attitude that a crash will never happen to them. Unfortunately these tragedies can and do happen every day and the best way to protect yourself is by wearing a seat belt.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), based on known usage, 52 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in motor vehicle crashes in Massachusetts during 2009 were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. 

This is three percent higher than the national average.

While it may just sound like a statistic, members of the know from personal experience that those numbers are the actual faces of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and friends right here in Grafton. We tell too many families about losses that may have been prevented had a loved one only worn a seat belt.

According to NHTSA, here are the top 5 things you should know about buckling up:

1. Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.

 In 2008, seat belts saved more than 13,000 lives nationwide. From 2004 to 2008, seat belts saved over 75,000 lives; that's enough people to fill a large sports arena. During a crash, being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas being completely thrown out of a vehicle is almost always deadly. Seat belts are the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers.

2.  Air bags are designed to work with seat belts, not replace them.

In fact, if you don’t wear your seat belt, you could be thrown into a rapidly opening frontal air bag; a movement of such force could injure or even kill you.

3.  Learn to buckle up safely.

The lap belt and shoulder belt are secured across the pelvis and rib cage which are more able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body.

4.  Fit matters.

Before you buy a new car, check to see that its seat belts are a good fit for you. Ask your dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can help you get the best fit.  

If you need a roomier belt, contact your vehicle manufacturer to obtain seat belt extenders.  If you drive an older or classic car with lap belts only, check with your vehicle manufacturer about how to retrofit your car with today’s safer lap/shoulder belts. Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck. Adjust the lap belt across your hips below your stomach.  NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.

5.  Occupant protection is for everyone.

Visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site at www.nhtsa.gov and click on "4 Steps for Kids'' to find out how to secure your littlest passengers.  If you’re expecting a little one, check out NHTSA’s “Should pregnant women wear seat belts?” brochure online to learn how important it is for you, and your unborn child, to buckle up the right way every trip, every time.

So remember, if you are pulled over for violating traffic laws, law enforcement will be checking to make sure drivers and passengers are wearing their seat belts.  

No more excuses: Click it or ticket.  

* According to NHTSA, all numbers and percentages referencing belted or unbelted fatalities are based on “Known Usage.”

Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Road, Grafton, MA 01519.  You may also email your questions or comments to chief@graftonpolice.com.  Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons. 

Normand A. Crepeau, Jr. is Grafton's Chief of Police.



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