- Associated Press - Monday, January 13, 2014

Kearney Hub. Jan. 11, 2014.

Seat belts, cellphones each factor into safety

This week’s edition of AAA’s Nebraska Highway Safety Issues carries a photo of what appears to be a brand-new red pickup with its driver’s side door swung wide open. The caption says the pickup drifted off a Nebraska highway, went airborne when it struck a culvert, and by the time the pickup came to a rest, the driver had been inflicted with fatal injuries.

Unrestricted by a seat-belt, he was flung about the cab violently and died of his injuries.


The accident photo is unusual because unrestricted drivers usually are tossed outside their vehicle, which then rolls over them and crushes them.

The lesson: Drivers and passengers who are buckled up are much more likely to survive crashes than those who don’t use seat belts. As much sense as it makes to buckle up, Nebraska statute doesn’t actually require seat belt usage. Refusing to use them only becomes a crime when motorists break other traffic laws.

This year, state lawmakers aim to change that and really mandate seat belts. Just as motorcyclists and their passengers are required to wear helmets, motorists and their passengers would be required to wear seat belts under the Nebraska Roadway Safety Act.

Other features of the Safety Act deal with cellphone usage, including calling and texting by motorists and bus drivers. Today using cellphones for calls or texts while driving is a secondary offense, but the Safety Act would make such usage a primary offense. Motorists could use their phones if their vehicles are stopped, but not when they’re in motion.

While the calling and texting measures are meant to prevent accidents, the seat belt measure is aimed to boost survivability in the event of accidents.

Thirty-three states - including Kansas and Iowa - deem seat belt use as a primary law.

Today, voluntary usage among Nebraskans is about 80 percent, but even with that high rate, during the past decade more than 1,400 unbelted vehicle occupants have lost their lives on Nebraska highways. Of the 1,400 people who were killed, seat belts would have saved about 600 of them, according to safety experts.

Nebraska lawmakers will be wise to seriously consider the Nebraska Roadway Safety Act. If the act is passed and seat belt use becomes mandatory, it is estimated that usage will increase by 12 percent to 15 percent. That increase translates into 50-60 fewer deaths annually, along with fewer serious injuries and reduced health care costs.

Drivers and passengers, don’t wait for Nebraska’s lawmakers to act. If you’re not in the habit of buckling up, get in the habit and insist that all of your passengers also buckle up.

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McCook Daily Gazette. Jan. 8, 2014.

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