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Editorial: Lake Area deserves pat on back for seat beat usage

Last Modified: Friday, November 09, 2012 6:25 PM

Southwest Louisiana motorists deserve a pat on the back. The latest survey for the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission revealed that our corner of the state leads all other regions in seat-belt usage.

According to the survey by the Preusser Research Group, seat-beat usage in the Lake Charles area was at 85.6 percent. That number also topped the state average of 79.3 percent, a record for Louisiana, and last year’s national average of 84 percent.

Other areas of the state ranged from 83.7 percent usage in Lafayette to 62.5 percent in Monroe.

Our area made a sizeable leap in usage, rising from a 74.8 compliance rate in 2011. Louisiana’s seat-belt usage rate climbed 1.6 percent.

Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, credits increased enforcement and educational campaigns for the improvements.

“The repeated Click It or Ticket campaigns we’ve coordinated across the state are raising awareness of the importance of always using seat belts,” LeBlanc said. “However, more than half of the people killed in crashes in Louisiana are not buckled up, meaning we still have lots of work to do in this area.”

LeBlanc believes there’s a direct correlation between the increased seat-belt usage in the state and the drop in the number of fatal highway crash fatalities. The LHSC notes that Louisiana’s highway death toll has decreased annually since 2008.

According to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injuries by 50 percent. The NHTSA reports that a majority of the people killed in crashes in Louisiana were not buckled up. An estimated eight lives are saved in Louisiana for every 1 percentage point increase in seat-belt use.

Seat-belt usage is good common sense and is the best way to counter the laws of physics. Not only is a vehicle traveling at the speed limit down the highway hurtling at 70 miles per hour, so are its occupants. If a crash occurs, the vehicle comes to an abrupt halt. Occupants in the vehicle not restrained by seat belts don’t.

State Police Troop D spokesman Sgt. James Anderson said that 65 percent of drivers who died in crashes last year in Louisiana were not wearing a seat belt.

When it comes to seat-belt usage, the old line of rather being safe than sorry applies.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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