Monday, July 11, 2011

Commonality in most traffic deaths this year: no seat belts

I wrote a week ago about the increase in traffic deaths this year, and we learned this morning about another disturbing trend. Deputy Chief Cy Ritter reported at our Board of Police Commissioners meeting that 79 percent of those killed in crashes in Kansas City so far this year were not wearing seat belts. As of today, Kansas City has had 39 people killed in vehicle crashes in 2011.

Many were single-vehicle crashes in which the driver lost control and left the roadway. About 17 percent were motorcycles. But the greatest commonality in this year's fatalities is the lack of seat belts. According to the Missouri Division of the Federal Highway Administration, Missouri's overall seat belt usage of 77 percent is well below the national average of 84 percent. Seat belt usage among teens in Missouri is just 61 percent. So far this year, youth aged 10 to 19 have comprised 17 percent of Kansas City's fatalities. About 41 percent of those who have died in crashes this year have been ejected from their vehicles. Ejection is something a seat belt almost always can prevent.

I've only addressed fatalities so far. I haven't even mentioned the egregious injuries that can occur without seat belts - the paralysis, the broken bones and head injuries. There's a 1 in 3 chance of being injured in a traffic crash if you're not wearing a seat belt and only a 1 in 8 chance of being injured if you are, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Similarly, there is a 1 in 29 chance of being killed in a traffic crash without wearing a seat belt while just a 1 in 1,322 chance if you are wearing a belt. Those are far, far better odds.

It may be cliche, but seat belts really do save lives, and we should be saving more of them here in Kansas City.

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