Safe Driving Starts With Buckling Up

Sep 16, 2019 11:31:12 AM

Labor Day is the "unofficial end of summer". We hope you've had an enjoyable summer. There are many reasons to hit the highways and byways this fall, from following your favorite sports teams to attending fall fairs and festivals.

Wearing a seat belt increases your chances of avoiding serious injury or death in a crash by up to 50%.  And it is also critical that children be seated in an approved and appropriately sized child safety seat if they are below 57 inches tall.  In Massachusetts, it's the law.  If State or local police stop you, they will issue you a ticket.  Since the successful Click It or Ticket enhanced enforcement campaign began, seat belt usage has increased by 16%.

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Click it or ticket

Below are a few facts and suggestions you may find helpful as you set off on the road this fall.

A 2012 survey found that Massachusetts drivers and passengers buckle up at the rate of 73.8% as compared to a national rate of 86%. And although the usage is lower than the national average, the death rates per 100,000 population in all age groups in Massachusetts are well below national averages. That's the good news. Still, given that we all know that seat belts save lives, why do so many people fail to buckle up? Here are a few more facts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to consider.

* More  than six people every day are ejected from their vehicles during crashes in Massachusetts

* Think you can "brace yourself" in a crash?  At just 35 mph, a 130 pound adult generates 3600 pounds of force.  Imagine that force striking the dashboard or windshield.  When your body stops by crashing into something, your internal organs and brain keep moving.  The "internal collision" is what leads to serious injury and death.

* Just headed to the store? Even then wear your seat belt because 80% of traffic fatalities occur within 25 miles of home and at less than 40 mph. 

* Airbags inflate at up to 200 mph and can seriously injure unbelted drivers and passengers.

* Seat belts can prevent you from being knocked unconscious in a crash, improving your chances of escape or helping other passengers.

* Unbelted passengers, even the family dog, pose a threat to the belted passengers because they can become projectiles in a crash.

The best reason: set a good example for your kids by buckling up every time. 70% of kids with parents who don't buckle up will not use their seat belts as adults.

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How to wear a seat belt

This sounds axiomatic.  It's not. Improper use of a seat belt can also cause injury during a crash.

Lap Belts:

* Be sure it is snug.  Slack allows room for movement before or during the crash, increasing the risk of spinal cord or head injury.

* Be sure the belt is flat. A twisted belt concentrates the stress on a small body area, increasing the likelihood of injury.

* Sit with your seat back upright.  If the seat is reclined, you can slide under the belt, hit the dashboard or front seat, increasing the risk of abdominal injury.

Shoulder Belts:

* Be sure the belt is snug.  Too much slack can result in facial and chest injuries.

* Wear the belt over the shoulder, across the collarbone, and diagonally across the chest. This helps keep you the proper distance from the full force of the exploding air bag.

* Do not wear the belt under the arm.  The collarbone is strong emough to distribute the crash forces, but the ribs are likely to break and puncture the lungs, heart, liver or spleen.

* Do not wear the belt in front of the face or neck.  You may need a cushion to raise yourself up if you are less than 5 feet tall.

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Child safety seats

There are different car seats for different ages and weights of kids.  Unfortunately, you could be buying at least three different seats before your child reaches 8 years old or 57 inches in height: infant seat (up to 22 lbs.),  toddler seat (20-40 lbs.), booster seat 41 lbs. up to 57 inches tall).  

There are some recent changes regarding child seats.  The American Association of Pediatricians used to recommend that children from infants to 2 years should remain in a rear-facing seat. This recommendation has been changed to a weight-based standard (40 pounds) which means children may stay in rear-facing seats to age 4. There are also more car seat models available such as Convertible, Combination and All-in-One seats. Go to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association site (nhtsa.gov) for a buying guide and Car Seat Finder comparison, including Ease of Use Ratings.

Remember that not all brands of seats fit all cars properly.  You may want to try out several seats before you buy one. Perhaps a friend will let you try theirs in your car for fit and ease of use. 

Up to about age 12, keep your kids in the back seat safely buckled up.  The reason: the force of the exploding air bag can severely injure someone under 100 pounds and less than 5 ft tall. NEVER place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat in front of an airbag. Always follow the vehicle manufacturer's warnings about seating children near air bags. Check your car's user manual to determine placement of airbags in your vehicle.  

Learn to properly use your child's safety seat by reviewing the seat and vehicle manufacturers' instructions.

If you plan on doing significant traveling this fall, let us know in advance of the dates you will be out of town.  Share our contact information with your neighbors or friends who will be monitoring your house while you're away.  That way they can alert us if there is some serious issue that will result in a claim, so we can handle things for you until you return. Stop by or call us at 508-528-3310 or toll-free at 888-528-3310 for more ideas on how to secure your home while you are away from home.

Thanks for your continued trust!

Once again this year, our valued customers and friends have made us the #1 Insurance Agency in the Franklin area! And we've been voted a Gold Award as well. Your continued business is a trust that we take very seriously. Please feel free to contact us any time you need a question answered or need to make a change to your coverages.

DID YOU KNOW?

Does primary law enforcement of seat belt laws really make a difference?

Seat belt use is lower in states with only secondary enforcement or no law at all (79% vs 88% nationally). In 2010, 19 states (including MA) where 1 in 4 adult Americans live did NOT have a primary law.

Primary enforcement means that a police officer can pull someone over and issue a ticket just because someone in the car isn't wearing their seat belt.  Secondary enforcement means that the officer can issue a ticket IF the officer pulled the driver over for some other offense.  However, an MA police officer CAN pull over and stop any vehicle if a child passenger age 12 or under is not properly restrained.

What is the fine for failing to be buckled up if you are stopped?

The fine is $25 per child under age 16 in the vehicle. Each person age 16 and over will be fined $25 individually.

Who is least likely to wear a seat belt?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), teens, adults between ages 18-34, men, commercial truck drivers, people who live in rural areas, and people who live in states with no primary seat belt law are least likely to buckle up.  You can also add drunken drivers to that list.  

My child complains about having to use a booster seat. Can't he just use a seat belt and sit on a cushion?

The Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Law requires booster seat use for children who have outgrown a child safety seat but are under age 8 and less than 4'9" in height. 

Booster seats put children in the proper position to safely use adult safety belts. An improperly fitting adult belt can cause injury to the face, neck, and spinal cord of a child.

When is a child big enough to wear an adult safety belt?

  1. When he or she is over 57" in height
  2. When the shoulder belt fits across the shoulder and chest not the neck and throat
  3. When the lap belt fits snugly and securely on the hips with no slack
  4. When his/her knees bend over the edge of the seat and feet are flat on the floor
  5. When he or she can sit comfortably restrained without wiggling about.

When is it safe to let a kid ride in the front?

The law specifies age 12 or older. The hazard here is the force of an exploding airbag. There is also some concern for petite adult women sitting in front as well because of concern for airbag caused injury. Remember: the safest spot in the whole car is the middle of the back seat. Isn't that where you want your child?

Can I use a second-hand car seat I buy in a yard sale?

This will satisfy the legal requirement. However, you will not know if the seat has already been in a crash and suffered invisible structural damage that compromises its ability to protect your child.  The model may have been recalled for safety defects.  And the instructions for installation and use will probably be long gone. You may not even want to reuse a seat you had for an older child if it has seen lots of wear and tear.

Matt Keras

Written by Matt Keras

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