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Most everyone will be in at least one car crash in their lifetime. While a safety belt may not prevent an accident, wearing one during a crash can significantly increase your chances of surviving. When a vehicle is involved in a crash, passengers are still traveling at the vehicle’s original speed at the moment of impact. When the vehicle comes to a complete stop, drivers and passengers not wearing safety belts can slam into the steering wheel, windshield, other passengers in the vehicle, or other parts of the car’s interior.
Safety belts definitely save lives –approximately 15,000 each year.
What is the correct way to wear a safety belt?
The lap portion of the lap/shoulder belt should lay low and snug across the person’s pelvis/lap – it should never lie across the stomach. The shoulder belt should cross the chest and should never be placed behind the person’s back.
Know The Facts
- Drivers are less likely to use safety belts when they have been drinking.
- Safety belts should always be worn, even when riding in vehicles equipped with airbags. Airbags are designed to work with safety belts, not alone.
- Crashes are the leading cause of death for young people; the younger the driver, the more likely the crash.
- Safety belts DOUBLE your chances of walking away from a crash alive and without a serious injury.
- Before you drive, wait until all your friends are buckled up.
- Almost anywhere you drive, it is illegal not to wear your safety belt.
Myths and Misconceptions About Safety Belts
I don't need a safety belt when driving at slow speeds or short trips.
All driving can be dangerous. Fatalities have been recorded as slow as 12 miles per hour on non-belted occupants. Most crashes occur at speeds less than 40 miles per hour. As for the length of your trip making a difference – 75% of traffic accidents occur within 2.5 miles of your home.
Safety belts are uncomfortable and too confining.
Safety belts are designed to allow movement around the vehicle, and they provide plenty of freedom without compromising safety. They are designed to activate immediately should a car come to a sudden halt. After regular use, safety belts are very comfortable.
If I wear a safety belt, I might get trapped in a burning car or caught in one underwater.
Less than 1 out of 200 traffic-related incidents involve fire or water submersion. Even so, you're much more likely to be knocked out and rendered unconscious if you are not wearing a safety belt. Your chances of escape are better while wearing a safety belt.
I might be saved if I am thrown clear of a car in a collision.
You are 25 times more likely to be killed in a crash when thrown from a vehicle. The force of an impact can throw you 150 feet – that’s 15 car lengths! Safety belts also prevent you from smashing your head into the windshield, which could cause serious spinal damage.
When I see a collision happening, I will brace myself.
Crashes happen in the blink of an eye. It is impossible to prepare for crashes, and the forces generated are enormous.
I don't want to offend my passengers by telling them to buckle up.
Most people willingly put on safety belts if someone only reminds them.
Being aggressive and speeding behind the wheel not only makes your driving dangerous, but it jeopardizes the safety of others who share the road with you.
Being in a rush to get to your destination can lead to accidents, traffic stops, and some serious frustration. At least 1,500 people are seriously injured or killed in aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) crashes.
For every 10 mph you drive over 50 mph, you double your changes of death or serious injury or death. Last year exceeding the posted speed limit or driving at an unsafe speed was the most common error in fatal crashes.
One person was killed or injured in a speed-related crash every 35.2 minutes in Missouri in 2007 – that amounts to over 400 deaths.
How much time do you really save?
The dangers of speeding far outweigh the travel time saved. Choosing to exceed the speed limit or drive too fast for traffic, road, vehicle, or driver conditions can result in not just a speeding ticket, but serious injury or death.
Do the math: If the speed limit is 60 mph, and you’re driving 70 mph, after driving for one hour, you will have only gained 10 miles – or 9 minutes.
Aggressive driving can also lower your gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an extra 25 cents per gallon for gas! Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money.
You can be safe avoid aggressive driving in many ways: leave a little early and allow extra time to get to your destination, be patient and courteous while driving, and maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you.
Sometimes driving can feel routine, but you can never be prepared for all the twists and turns while you’re behind the wheel. By staying focused and distraction free, you could avoid problems on the road. Distracted driving is a contributing cause of 10% of fatal accidents and 30% of total accidents.
If you are driving at 55 mph and take your eyes off the road, in a span of 3-4 seconds you have traveled the length of a football field.
Cell phone use while driving can cause major distractions for drivers, even those phones which are “hands free”. The mental distraction of talking impairs a driver’s ability to make decisions about driving, and it makes you four times more likely to be in a crash.
The reaction time of those who text message while driving decreases by 35%, making it much more difficult to avoid a crash.
Texters are much more prone to drift out of their lane - steering control is 91% poorer than that of attentive drivers.
If you must use a cell phone
- Keep both hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road; remember that safe driving is the priority.
- Assess the current traffic situation before making or receiving any calls. Do not answer or dial the phone when driving in hazardous conditions.
- Pull over to the side of the road before beginning a cell phone conversation, or wait until you reach your destination. The safest time to use a cell phone while driving is when stopped.
- Become familiar with how to use the phone. Read the manual and know how to use the available features.
- NEVER send text messages while your car is in motion. Texting while driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving!
Simply put, drowsy driving is operating a vehicle in a physical state in which the driver's alertness is considerably lower than it would be if the driver were “well rested” and “fully awake.” This can include not paying attention while driving due to fatigue or lack of sleep or even falling asleep behind the wheel.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes annually (about 1.5% of all crashes) involve drowsiness or fatigue as a principal causal factor.
Being awake for 18 hours is the equivalent of having a BAC of .08 (the legal limit of intoxication) and leaves you at an equal risk for a crash. The chances of being in a sleep-related crash are greatest for those who are driving just 1 or 2 hours.
Signs of Drowsy Driving
- Can’t remember the last few miles driven
- Drift from lanes or hit a rumble strip
- Yawn repeatedly
- Accidentally tailgate or miss traffic signs
- Have wandering or disconnected thoughts
- Difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
- Have trouble keeping your head up
How to stay alert while driving
Sleep/naps: Try to get enough sleep everyday. If you do stay up late, take an afternoon nap. If you feel drowsy while driving, you may not be getting adequate sleep.
Caffeine: Avoid caffeine during the last half of your day as it can contribute to sleep problems. You can gain short-term alertness by drinking coffee or other sources of caffeine if driving, but it usually takes 30 minutes to take effect, wears off after a few hours, and is less effective for those who consume caffeine regularly.
Regular stops: You should stop at least every 100 miles or 2 hours. Switch drivers if you can.
Avoid Alcohol: If you have been drinking, please don’t drive! In addition to being illegal, alcohol makes you sleepy and amplifies your fatigue. Like alcohol, sleepiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment and increases your risk of a crash.
Plan ahead for long trips: If possible, get a good night’s sleep the night before. Avoid driving during the body’s “down time”. According to AAA, this is generally in the mid-afternoon and between midnight and 6:00 am.
Most Missouri college students choose not to drink and drive. In fact, 87% use a designated driver when they are drinking. However, those who do choose to drink and drive often experience negative consequences such as involvement in a crash or a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) violation.
Drinking slows reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs judgment. College students are particularly at risk. Every day, 13 people between the ages of 16 and 24 die in an alcohol related crash. Nationwide in 2007, 12,998 people died in alcohol-related crashes. In Missouri, that accounted for 225 deaths. Alcohol was a contributing factor in over 22% of Missouri’s motor vehicle fatalities last year.
Make sure you arrange for a designated driver who will consume no alcohol if you plan to drink. If everyone in your party has been drinking, call a taxi or a sober friend to pick you up. Never ride home with the “least drunk” person in the group. If you are the designated driver, use the CHEERS to the Designated Driver program in your community to get free non-alcoholic beverages at participating bars and restaurants.
Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
BAC is the amount of alcohol in a person’s body. The higher a driver’s BAC, the more risk they have of being involved in a crash. A driver with a .10 BAC has a 48 times higher risk of being involved in a crash than someone who has not been drinking at all. A driver with a .15 BAC is 280 times more likely to be involved in a crash.
Consequences of a DWI
Not only will you have to face the local court system if you receive a DWI or are involved in a drinking and driving related crash on campus, but you could be held accountable through your campus conduct/judicial system as well. Most universities in Missouri have campus policies against drinking and driving.
Before you are involved in a crash, ensure that you have the proper information in your vehicle. You will need your driver’s license, proof of paid insurance, and your vehicle registration. You should also be aware of where your vehicle identification number is located in your car. Carry flares and a notepad and pen in your car. These will be helpful should a crash occur.
If you are involved in a crash, as a driver or a passenger, it is important to remember these important steps in order to stay safe after the crash:
- Before exiting your vehicle, watch for on-coming traffic.
- Check for injuries. If people are injured, that is your first priority. If no one is injured, move your vehicle out of the roadway to a safer place where you can exchange information with the drivers of other vehicles involved in the crash.
- Always call the police when an injury or fatality is involved. You should also call the police when the cars cannot be moved, when one of the drivers is intoxicated, when one of the drivers has no insurance, and when one of the drivers leaves the scene of the crash before exchanging information.
- If you cannot move your vehicle, protect the scene with flares or by raising your hood and move any persons to the side of the roadway.
- Exchange contact information, vehicle identification and license plate numbers, driver’s license information.
Never leave the scene of a crash without exchanging information or calling the police, when appropriate. If you hit a vehicle that is parked, find the driver, or write your information in a note that you leave with the vehicle.