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Mitzi Parker: Wear your seat belt

I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend. Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end of summer; lots of folks are on the road traveling to the beach or the river — or maybe just headed over to a friend’s to watch football. The Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute (GTIPI), an educational outreach unit of the University of Georgia, wants to remind everyone to be safe and “buckle up!” Last year during the Labor Day weekend, 3,706 crashes were recorded in Georgia; 15 Georgians lost their lives in traffic accidents and 1,218 injuries were reported.
This Labor Day weekend law enforcement officers will be patrolling our roads in support of Operation Zero Tolerance and Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over. They will also be looking to make sure drivers and their passengers are wearing seat belts.
Did you know that car crashes are the number one killer of people under the age of 34? Two out of every three vehicle crash fatalities in Georgia involve victims that were not wearing their seat belt. Safety belts save lives — they reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about 50 percent. Children not restrained in a child safety seat during a car crash are three times more likely to be injured than those who are restrained.
Let me share some facts with you.
• Buckle Up — It’s the law. All 50 states have child restraint laws and 49 states have seat belt laws.
• Georgia law requires that all children under 8 years of age be buckled in a child safety seat or booster seat in the back seat unless they are 4’9” tall or taller. All children 8-17 years of age must wear a seat belt.  All front-seat occupants of passenger vehicles must be buckled.
• Every 15 seconds, someone in the U.S. is injured and every 13 minutes, someone is killed in a traffic crash.
• 74 percent of occupants who are ejected from passenger cars are killed.
• In a crash or sudden stop, your body weight is multiplied by the speed of the vehicle. For example, a person weighing 100 pounds (not using a seat belt) in an impact at 55 miles per hour, will strike the interior of the vehicle’s surfaces or objects outside the vehicle with the force of 5,500 pounds.
• Three out of every four crashes occur within 25 miles from home.
• About 3 out of 4 child safety seats and booster seats are installed or used incorrectly.
• When installed correctly, child safety seats are:
— 71 percent effective in preventing fatalities
— 67 percent effective in reducing the need for hospitalization
— 50 percent effective in preventing even minor injuries
Every year, approximately 40,000 Americans die from motor vehicle-related injuries; another 270,000 are hospitalized. The injuries alone cost an estimated $99 billion in lifetime medical care and lost productivity. You can’t put a price on the value of a life and the impact it has on the victim’s families and loved ones. Take seat belt usage serious — seat belts save lives!

Mitzi Parker is Sumter County Extension agent/Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at 229-924-4476.