Most drivers today aren't old enough to remember a time when seat belts weren't required in every vehicle and buckling up was the law. However, too many people still fail to take that simple safety precaution when they get in a car, and the consequences can be deadly.
Here in Mississippi, over half of those killed in vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts or other safety restraints. That rate increases to over 60 percent between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. While seat belt usage has increased slightly, we still rank nine percent behind the national average of 88.5 percent.
As the busy Memorial Day Weekend approaches, law enforcement agencies throughout the state are taking part in a national campaign to ticket drivers and passengers who are spotted without seat belts. The campaign, which runs through June 5, is focusing on the busy interstate corridors of the country.
According to officials, May is "one of the most deadly months to be traveling in Mississippi." In May 2015, 68 people were killed on Mississippi roads. Almost half of those deaths occurred during the last two weeks of the month. Alcohol was determined to be a factor in about one third of those crashes.
Mississippi's traffic safety record is a concerning one. A study last year ranked our state's drivers the tenth worst in the country. That was based on the number of accidents where speeding, drunk driving and/or careless driving was involved.
We can't control whether other drivers get behind the wheel impaired or engage in reckless or distracted driving. However, by using seat belts, and requiring all of our passengers to be buckled in, we can reduce the chances of serious or fatal injuries if we are involved in an accident.
Source: The Clarion-Ledger, "Agency: More than half of crash fatalities were unbelted," Bracey Harris, May 13, 2016