Buckle Up

Teens more likely to die in cars

A national traffic safety campaign targets teen vehicle safety this Memorial Day weekend. Addressing a specific group might be a good way to reach the entire traveling populace.

Hood River Police have received a federal grant, via Oregon Department of Transportation, to place special emphasis this weekend on enforcing seat belt use.

For many teens, a driver’s license is a ticket to freedom. No more car pools. No more pick-ups and drop-offs at school. No more dates with chaperones behind the wheel. But tragically for too many teens, a license is also a ticket to an early death.

“Caught in a lethal intersection of inexperience, risk-taking and low seat belt use, teens are dying at disproportionately high rates,” states a release from the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign, part of “Operation ABC: America Buckles Up Children.”

Lack of seat belt use is generally a problem with drivers and passengers of all ages. In Hood River Thursday, police searched for a vehicle reportedly containing two adult females and two children who were not buckled in.

Such attention by law enforcement has to start with young passengers, but it’s good to place the emphasis on teenagers since they so often travel unsupervised, and are young enough to learn positive habits.

The week-long “Operation ABC” enforcement is backed by $8 million in federal funding to ensure that the buckle up message reaches those least likely to obey the law. According to the Safety Campaign organizers, similar efforts in the past have yielded an 8-12 percent increase in seat belt use.

According to the new data from NHTSA’s Fatal Analysis Reporting Systems (FAIRS), 4,437 teens ages 16-19 died and thousands more were injured in traffic crashes in 2000. The numbers are stark ones, especially to consider them over the Memorial Day holiday when so many people will be on the road.

Fatality rates for teens are twice that of older drivers and the risk of crashes for teens is four times that of older drivers. This year, approximately 8,000 Americans, adults and children, will die in crashes because they failed to buckle their seat belts.

Whether you’re young or old, if you’re traveling this weekend keep it under 65, and buckle up.

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