Fatal accidents highlight need for seat belt use

Mar. 03, 2013 @ 07:56 PM

Certified driving instructor Terri Ward can attest personally to the importance of wearing seat belts in a wreck.
Some years ago, Ward was instructing a driver when the teenager overcorrected while steering the car. As the vehicle came to a stop, the car bumped into an earthen embankment along the roadway.
Ward and the teenager weren’t hurt, but mainly because each was wearing a seat belt. Otherwise, she said, “there’s a very good chance we would have gone through the windshield” on impact.
The importance of using seat belts has been highlighted — tragically — by three recent, fatal wrecks in the High Point area.
On Tuesday night, a 12-year-old girl in Randolph County died when the SUV in which she was a passenger veered off a rural road and hit a utility pole. Two other passengers in the vehicle who were wearing seat belts were uninjured, according to the State Highway Patrol.
Late last month, a 37-year-old father of five from Trinity died when his car was struck by a vehicle crossing into his lane on English Road in west High Point. The driver wasn’t “properly restrained” in his car, which overturned, according to High Point police. Three people — including the driver and passenger in the other car — have been charged in the wreck.
Also last month, a 14-year-old girl from Davidson County died in a two-car collision along a rural road near the community of Welcome. 
The girl, a passenger in one of the vehicles, wasn’t wearing a seat belt, according to the Highway Patrol. The driver of the other car was cited in the crash.
“I honestly think that if she had her seat belt on, she would not have died,” Trooper Nathan Varney told The High Point Enterprise.
Seat belts are the most effective, easiest way to prevent fatalities and serious injuries in crashes, said High Point Police Department Capt. Mike Kirk.
Some motorists believe — mistakenly — that air bags in cars preclude the need to wear seat belts, Kirk said. But air bags are designated as a “supplemental restraint system” meant to work in conjunction with seat belts, the captain said.
Ward, a driving instructor at High Point Central High School, stresses to teenage students the importance of buckling up before getting out on the road.
“Seat belts are the most effective way of preventing death and injury when it comes to driving,” she said.

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Use of seat belts has increased dramatically in the past two generations, primarily because of state laws requiring their use and the successful “You Could Learn A Lot From A Dummy” public service campaign that featured a pair of talking crash test dummies promoting seat belts. Seat belt use in North Carolina increased from 86.1 percent of drivers in 2003 to 89.7 percent two years ago, according to the most recent figures available from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
The single-best way to prevent fatalities in car accidents is use of seat belts, according to AAA. Seat belts are estimated to have saved more than 250,000 lives since 1975 in the United States, AAA reports.