Meridian Star

May 16, 2013

Buckle up

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Teresa Radcliffe's young daughter is a student at Clarkdale. The student has seen four of her schoolmates die in the past several months from injuries suffered in car accidents.

    "Clarkdale is a small school and everyone knows everyone," Radcliffe said. "These tragedies affect the other students as well."

    Radcliffe is the grant coordinator for the Meridian Police Department who each year spearheads the efforts of law enforcement agencies to make sure everyone in a vehicle is buckled in. This year's Click It or Ticket campaign begins Monday, May 20 and will continue through the Memorial Day holiday.

    It is no secret that seat belts save thousands of lives each year. But what is a mystery to law enforcement personnel, is why people refuse to utilize the proven safety harness.

    "As we kick off the busy summer driving season it is important that everyone buckles up every time they go out, both day and night," said Greg Crain, Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop H law enforcement liaison. "We want everyone to have a safe summer but it requires everyone clicking that seat belt securely."

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 52 percent of the 21,253 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2011 were not wearing a seat belt.

    Radcliffe zeroed in on traffic fatalities in East Mississippi when she noted in 2010 there were 13 deaths, in 2011, 12 deaths, and 2012, 16 deaths for a total of 41 throughout the period. Of those, 35 deaths were attributed in part to the victim being unrestrained or not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Radcliffe further noted that 18 of those deaths through the three year period were victims between the ages of 15 and 34.

    All law enforcement agencies enforce seat belt laws year round. But during these safety initiatives the focus is ramped up with increased law enforcement presence on the roadways and impromptu safety checkpoints.

    "Seat belts save lives," said Crain. "But far too many people don't wear them. We have to change that."

    NHTSA said in 2011 alone, almost 12,000 people survived a crash because they were wearing safety belts.