Editorial: Click it or lose out
What will it take to convince more drivers and passengers to wear seat belts?
The consequences of not wearing seat belts play out on our roadways day after day. Just last Friday, Rowan had two fatalities involving people not wearing seat belts. Other factors caused the accidents, and there's no guarantee a seat belt would save a life every time. But too often we hear of fatalities and think, "if only" - if only people had taken this simple step, required by law, they might have avoided serious injury.
American drivers are learning. Since 1993, seat-belt use has been climbing, reaching 84 percent nationwide and 89.7 percent in North Carolina in recent years. With the increase has come a steady decline in the percentage of vehicle passengers who become fatality statistics while unrestrained. It's a logical relationship, but one that many overlook.
Who? Safety experts at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have identified those who are less likely to wear seat belts: teens, commercial drivers, males in rural areas, pickup drivers, people driving at night and people who have been drinking. Recognize yourself in there?
North Carolina requires drivers and all their passengers to wear seat belts, and frequent Click It or Ticket campaigns prove the state is serious. The fines may seem negligible - $10 to $25.50. But court costs can be $135.50, probably the stiffest part of the law.
That's meaningless compared to the worst outcome of not clicking on a seat belt.
Many factors contribute to accidents; no one can foresee them all. But everyone can take advantage of the best protection in the case of an accident - something most people do out of habit. When they get in a vehicle, they put on a seat belt without even thinking about it. That alone reduces their risk of serious injury or death by 50 percent. And spares their family from thinking, "if only."
Know NC seat belt law
All drivers and passengers, in the rear seat as well as in the front seat, ages 16 and older must wear their seat belts. Children less than age 16 are covered by the NC Child Passenger Safety law.
• The driver of the vehicle is responsible for himself and all children under 16.
• Passengers ages 16 and older are responsible for themselves.
Drivers and front seat occupants ages 16 and older
• Penalty of $25.50
• Court costs, $135.50
Rear seat occupants
Ages 16 and older
• Penalty of $10
• No court costs
(No driver’s license or insurance points are assessed.)
— GOVERNORS’ HIGHWAY SAFETY ASSOCIATION