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Seat Belt Use Falling in Florida


A recent survey found a decline in the number of Florida drivers and passengers buckling up. This trend concerns me since I know from first hand experience that safety belts save lives. One saved mine.

When I was a twenty-year old college student, I was in a horrific crash. A tire blowout caused the van I was traveling in to flip rear-over-front six times, taking out 30 feet of guardrail before hitting a bridge. The roof sheered off, littering the highway with the entire contents of the van. I remained inside the vehicle, strapped in by my safety belt.

I owe my life to that safety belt. My three sons owe their lives to it as well. They never would have been born if I had died on that highway 40 years ago. Highway safety advocates and the Florida Highway Patrol say that the most effective way to save lives is to convince people to buckle up. That’s why the decrease in safety belt use in particularly alarming. We’re trending in the wrong direction!

The statewide rate for seat belt use dropped to 79% in 2007. The decline was seen in nearly every age, gender and ethnic group. The largest drops were among African Americans and Hispanics. Seat belt use was highest among women.

In 1994, seat belt usage in the United States was only 58%. Today the national usage rate is 82%. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that each percentage point increase in usage represents 2.8 million more people buckling up, 250 more lives saved and 6,400 serious injuries prevented annually.

According to the NHTSA, safety belts have saved 135,000 lives and prevented 3.8 million injuries nationwide in the past 25 years. They credit seat belt use with annual savings of $50 billion in medical care, lost productivity and other injury-related costs.

Nationwide motor vehicles crashes are the leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24. In Florida there were 3,365 traffic fatalities last year, 62% of the people killed were not wearing seat belts. Think about that the next time you get in your car. My sons always buckle up. Now if I could just get them to turn down their music.

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