Police, Physician, Brain Injury Survivor Urge Motorists to Buckle Up
With Memorial Day and summer road trips around the corner, state and local police and a federal highway safety administrator joined forces today with a brain injury survivor and a surgeon at Tufts Medical Center to raise awareness about the dangers faced by drivers and passengers who do not wear seatbelts. The event was part of the Commonwealth's Spring 2008 Click it or Ticket Mobilization, a statewide effort involving extra traffic enforcement and public information that began May 14 and will continue through June 4.
Statistics from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security show that more than 30 percent of Massachusetts drivers and passengers are not buckling up, putting Massachusetts behind the 2007 national seatbelt use rate of 82 percent. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, proper seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury for front seat occupants in a motor vehicle crash by up to 45 percent and of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent.
"Safety belts are your best defense against other drivers and the best chance for survival in a crash, yet about one in every three Massachusetts drivers still aren't buckling up," said Colonel Mark F. Delaney, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. "Statistics have proven time and again that safety belts save lives."
Added Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, whose department was represented at today's event: "Regular seatbelt use is the single most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones in the event of a motor vehicle accident. The Boston Police Department is committed to keeping our roadways safe by enforcing traffic laws, ticketing violators and urging everyone to buckle up."
At today's event, police were joined by a surgeon who has witnessed the consequences of car crashes on patients who didn't fasten their seatbelts. "Emergency departments see far too many injuries that could have been avoided if drivers and passengers buckled up," said Brian Gilchrist, M.D., Chief of Surgery at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. "This simple act can prevent a lifetime of regret."
Danielle Wohl, a brain injury survivor who suffered severe injuries when the car she was riding in - unbelted -- was struck by a drunk driver nearly 20 years ago, also told her story at today's event. Wohl described how after being thrown through the windshield, she was in a coma for 3 ½ months and, to this day, has severe memory loss and visual impairment as a result.
For the Click it or Ticket mobilization, EOPSS has provided $1.3 million in federal highway safety funds for additional state and local traffic enforcement and public information activities. The funding will allow State Police alone to roll an additional 97 roadway patrols, while also allowing local police departments in Massachusetts to fund additional patrols of their own on city and town roads.
During this initiative, the Massachusetts State Police and many local police departments will strive to encourage voluntary safety belt compliance across the Commonwealth. For more information, go to www.mass.gov/highwaysafety.