The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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Robin L. Quillon

December 16, 2012

Robin L. Quillon | Seat belts are in vehicles for a reason

JOHNSTOWN — He grabbed my hand and thanked me as tears welled up in his eyes and said, “You saved the life of my wife today.”

You see, three weeks before Christmas, my colleague and I were attending a department meeting early in the morning when he was suddenly called out by the receptionist. He left the building in a big hurry – no explanation.

I learned the following day that his wife had been in a very bad automobile accident. Her car was totaled. Chip told me that the state trooper told him, had she not been wearing her seat belt, she would not have survived the accident. As it was, she escaped with minor scrapes and bruises.

Chip told me that my prodding him every day for months for not wearing his seat belt convinced him to get in the habit of wearing it, and he then convinced his wife to do the same. He said from that day on they faithfully buckled up every time, without exception.

My dad would always tell me as a young driver, “Son, I can replace the car, but I cannot replace you. Please do your old dad a favor and always buckle up and drive carefully.”

So I guess my dad gets an assist in saving the life of Chip’s sweetheart.

Folks, as I was driving to work the other morning, getting caught in the lights like everyone else, I counted more than 40 drivers not wearing their seat belts. I only live about 31⁄2 miles from work.

It’s odd, really; we get on an airplane and the first thing we do is buckle up as if our lives depended upon it. The truth is, the odds of the plane going down are slim. In fact, the odds of even seeing another aircraft in flight are slim, much less hitting another or going down. More than likely, you have more close calls backing out of your driveway than you will in-flight anywhere.

You get on a roller coaster and would not dream of not buckling up, yet you travel faster in a car than you ever would on a roller coaster.

The University of James Madison conducted a study regarding safety belts. The following are some conclusions:

-- One out of every five drivers will be involved in a traffic crash this year.

-- Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among people ages 44 and younger and the No. 1 cause of head and spinal cord injuries.

-- Approximately 35,000 people die in motor vehicle crashes each year. About 50 percent (17,000) of these people could be saved if they wore their safety belts.

-- More than 90 percent of all motorists believe safety belts are a good idea, but less than 14 percent actually use them.

-- Safety belts, when used properly, reduce the number of serious traffic injuries by 50 percent and fatalities by 60 to 70 percent.

-- Motorists are 25 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured when they are “thrown clear” than if they remain inside their vehicle.

-- Motorists can increase safety belt usage by example and verbal reminders. Nine out of 10 people buckle up when asked.

-- A common cause of death and injury to children in motor vehicles is being crushed by adults who are not wearing safety belts. One out of four serious injuries to passengers is caused by occupants being thrown into each other.

-- About 80 percent of all injuries to children in car crashes are injuries to the head, causing brain damage, permanent disfigurement, epilepsy or death.

-- Of every 100 children who die in motor vehicle crashes, at least 80 would survive if they were properly secured in an approved child safety seat or safety belts.

And finally…

-- An estimated 80 percent of American children are immunized against contagious diseases, but less than 10 percent are properly restrained when riding in a motor vehicle.

During this holiday season, please buckle up. Please try your best to convince another driver to wear his or her seat belt.

Remember, a vehicle can be replaced.


Robin L. Quillon is the publisher of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at

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Robin L. Quillon

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