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Law agencies teaching life-saving habit

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
The Escambia County Sheriff's Office was presented a grant during a county commission meeting on Monday. The grant will help fund the well-known Click-It or Ticket campaign and will target those of us who do not buckle up.
When the Click-It or Ticket campaign got underway several years ago, Escambia County was one of the worst counties in complying with seatbelt and child restraint laws. Since that time, county drivers have taken the hint and we have climbed closer to the state average. However, we still lag behind the rest of the nation when it comes to buckling up.
I know all too well what it is like to ignore the seatbelt laws in this state. After all, I am probably part of the last generation of Americans who, as a child, did not know what a "car seat" was and hated when the buckle of the seat belt came untucked from its permanent home between the cracks of the back seat. As I got a little older I remember family vacations when my folks would scurry to buckle up when we passed over borders into states with seat belt laws. A few years later my mom was hooked on buckling up and she tried to convince me to do the same thing.
Now, there is no state that has not implemented a seat belt law. That is because these governments have seen the statistics. They know that wearing a seatbelt or putting a child in a restraint seat can be the difference between life or death.
Of the 31,910 vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2001, 60 percent were not wearing a safety belt, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Safety belts saved 13,274 lives in 2001, and if all vehicle occupants over age 4 had been wearing safety belts, 7,334 more lives could have been saved, NHTSA estimates.
Only in my later 20s did I begin making the effort to remember and buckle up. Despite my mom's constant reminders, I always felt there was no reason to take the few extra seconds to fasten my seatbelt. Hopefully, today's teens do not feel the same way I did. After all, they are in more car crashes than any other age group which makes it even more important for them.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24 in the United States. In 2001, 63 percent of 16- to 20-year-old drivers and passengers killed or seriously injured in crashes were not wearing a safety belt.
Male teens continue to lag behind female teens in safety belt use. In a poll taken by the Centers of Disease Control, 18.1 percent of high school males said they rarely or never wore a safety belt as a passenger, compared with 10.2 percent of high school females.
The statistics speak for themselves and it is clear that there is plenty of room for improvement.
Local and state law enforcement agencies are working to see that they are improved. Slowly but surely they are convincing more and more of us to take a moment and fasten our seat belts. Through upcoming Click-It or Ticket road checks and other means, these agencies will convince several more drivers of the importance of seatbelts. At the same time, they are teaching a whole new generation about the life-saving habit of buckling up.
robert.blankenship@brewtonstandard.com