Fatalities point to need for buckling up

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – More than half of the 13 people killed in car crashes in Northeast Mississippi this year weren’t wearing seat belts.
Because of that statistic, law enforcement in the area will take this year’s Click It or Ticket campaign seriously than usual.
The nationwide initiative to get people to buckle up started May 16 and will end at midnight May 29. Because Memorial Day weekend is the first big traveling holiday of the summer, Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Jon Kalahar said it’s the perfect time to emphasize the campaign.
“Our stance hasn’t changed on this issue,” he said during a press conference in Tupelo. “Seat belts save lives. We still have too many people in our state being killed in car crashes because they aren’t wearing seat belts. It takes two seconds to strap it on and it could save your life, so why not take the time?”
This year, of Northeast Mississippi’s 13 traffic fatalities, eight were not in their seat belts
Last year, Mississippi had 641 traffic fatalities, and 340 of those killed were unrestrained. Of the 15- to 19-year-olds killed in car accidents, 81 percent were not wearing seat belts.
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green said about 90 percent of the unbelted victims probably would have lived had they been buckled.
“A lot of the accidents where people aren’t wearing the seat belts end in the person being ejected, and that’s one of the main things the seat belt helps to protect against,” said Gillentine-Green.
Many people use the excuse that if they have an accident the seat belt may keep them from escaping the vehicle, but Gillentine-Green said she has never worked a fatality where the seat belt caused the death.
State Highway Patrol Capt. Mickey Baker said even though seat belt use is up significantly in Mississippi, too many people are caught riding unrestrained. In 2010, MHP wrote 23,008 seat-belt violation tickets.
“We take wearing seat belts very seriously,” Baker said, “and we will be out in force during this campaign.”

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com.