COLUMNS

Valentine’s Day is Coming - If you Love it, Click It!

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Valentine’s Day is a good time to show your love by making sure that before you start your vehicle, all passengers — big and small — are always buckled up correctly. This is even more important this year during the pandemic when there is more reckless driving on our roadways and an increase in unbuckled fatalities. Taking those few seconds to buckle your children into their car seats, and making sure older children and adults are buckled up, is the most crucial step you can take to protect those you love in a crash. Those few seconds can save your family and friends from having to go through a needless tragedy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), among passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019, almost half were unrestrained. So, we need to show a lot more love and respect for our seat belts.

Fortunately, most Texans now buckle up, but some groups of motorists continue not taking the message to heart by not consistently using their seat belts. And, unfortunately, most children are not correctly restrained in a car seat. Use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to make sure all your passengers are safely buckled up, and if you know someone who doesn’t wear their seat belt, use Valentine’s Day to remind them and ask them to buckle up for love!

Here is a gift suggestion for any friend or family member who does not wear their seat belt – especially your teens. Ask them to sign a pledge that they will always buckle up and have them present it to you as a Valentine’s Day gift. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths nationwide with teens involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, according to NHTSA.

Some interesting things you may not know about buckling up could help keep your Valentine safe:

Most crashes happen close to home. Therefore, buckling up is important on every trip — not just on long highway trips. Going around the corner to the grocery store is not an excuse to take a chance on not buckling up. In fact, most children are killed close to home.

Children should ride in the back seat until they reach the age of 13. Until a child reaches age 13, their bones are not fully developed. They do not have a mature skeleton that can take the forces of the most common type of car crash, which is a frontal crash. Placing a child whose bones are not yet strong enough in the front seat, where there is the windshield, dashboard, and air bags, puts them at greater risk of injury or death during a crash.

Pickup trucks, while big and strong, are twice as likely to rollover in a crash due to their higher center of gravity. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a crash up to 60 percent in a pickup truck. Sadly, the seat belt use rate for pickup truck drivers and passengers is lower than in passenger vehicles. It is important to always make sure that the driver and every passenger in a pickup truck is buckled up.

Buckling up is not just for the daytime. A 2019 survey from Texas A&M Transportation Institute noted that drivers and passengers in Texas buckle up less at night than during the day. In Texas last year, of crashes in which an unbuckled occupant was killed, 59% happened during nighttime hours (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.).

Unbuckled passengers are also dangerous to others in the vehicle. In the event of a crash, the unbuckled passenger becomes a large projectile flying around the vehicle, who can injure or kill other occupants in the vehicle — including those who are buckled up!

This Valentine’s Day Marisa Dimas, Family and Community Health Educator in Duval County, is urging you to make sure all of those you love are safely buckled up every time, on every trip! Remember: If you love it, click it!