Lack of seat belt usage increasing fatalities

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – There’s a chance three people killed in car crashes the past two weeks could be alive today if they had been wearing a seat belt.
Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Ray Hall said even though it’s no guarantee that seat belts would have saved their lives, their chances would have been better had they’d worm them.
So far this year, 29 people in Northeast Mississippi have been killed in automobile accidents and of those 17 were unrestrained motorists, according to Hall.
“Out of four deaths in the past two weeks, three were not wearing seat belts and the other one was a pedestrian, so that is a startling number,” said Hall. “We have to get the point across that seat belts save lives, especially for our young people.”
Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green said about 65 percent of people killed in automobile accidents would have possibly survived had they been wearing a seat belt.
“A lot of the vehicles have minimal damage but the person is ejected and that is how a lot of the no-seat belt deaths occur,” she said. “That seat belt would have stopped the person from being ejected at the very least.”
National seat belt usage is 88 percent, according to the National Safety Council, and Mississippi is at 76 percent usage. From 2004 through 2008, primary seat belt laws saved an estimated 13,250 lives across the country. Mississippi adopted a primary seat belt law in July 2007, a law that Hall said has helped reduce fatality numbers in the state.
Hall said with increased seat belt education, law enforcement presence and enforcement, seat belt usage in Mississippi can continually be increased.
“We are going to the schools and talking to kids about seat belt safety,” he said. “We want to make our guys as visible as possible because when people see officers, they tend to slip their belts on. And we will enforce the law. That’s the only way we can get these numbers down. Four deaths with no seat belt in two weeks is far too many – one is too many.”