Who do you buckle up for is a question asked by the Kailee Mills Foundation, an organization established in memory of 16-year-old Kailee Mills who lost her life in 2017 in a crash when she unbuckled for a moment to take a selfie with her friend in the backseat of a car while on her way to a nearby Halloween Party. She was only traveling a mile away to a friend’s house and only a few blocks away from home when the car she was riding in veered off the road and rolled over ejecting Kailee from the backseat and killing her instantly. Her three friends walked away with only minor cuts and bruises. Kailee was the only one in the car not wearing a seat belt. It was that split second that shattered the lives and hearts of so many. Now, the foundation is asking people, especially young people, to think about who makes them want to buckle up – who would be heartbroken if they were to be killed in a car crash.
As the 2021 Click It or Ticket Campaign approaches May 24 to June 6, 2021, it is a further reminder that taking those few seconds to buckle up and making sure that children are riding correctly in their car seats, and older children and adults are using seat belts is the most crucial step you can take to protect those you love in a crash. Those few seconds can save your family and friends from having to go through a needless tragedy.
Fortunately, most Texans now buckle up, but some groups of motorists continue not taking the message to heart by not consistently using their seat belts. Pickup truck drivers and their passengers are less likely to wear seat belts. And, unfortunately, according to Texas A&M Transportation Institute Surveys, in 2019 only 68.2% of children were riding correctly restrained in a car seat.
It is also important to make sure you wear your seat belt day or night and on short trips as well as long trips. Kailee’s story reminds us that most crashes happen close to home and most fatal crashes happen at night! Going around the corner to the grocery store is not an excuse to take a chance on not buckling up. Skipping your seat belt at night is also a very dangerous idea.
During this year’s Click It or Ticket campaign which will include Memorial Day Weekend, officers will be out May 24 to June 6, 2021, enforcing the Texas seat belt laws to help save lives. Almost 91% of Texans use their seatbelts now compared to only 76% when the campaign launched in 2002. Sadly in 2020, the number of people who died while not wearing a seat belt increased by 16% over 2019, with 1,073 unbuckled drivers and passengers killed on Texas roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates since its inception 19 years ago, “Click It or Ticket” has saved 6,234 lives, prevented more than 100,000 serious injuries and saved Texas more than $23.6 billion in related economic costs.
Texas law requires the driver and all passengers in a vehicle to be secured by a seat belt or child restraint. Unbuckled drivers and passengers, even those in the back seat, face fines and court costs of up to $200.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family and Community Health Educator Leticia Hardy, Fort Bend County reminds drivers and passengers of these important safety tips.
- Children should ride in the back seat until they reach the age of 13. Until a child reaches age 13, their bones are not fully developed. Placing a child whose bones are not yet strong enough in the front seat, where there is the windshield, dashboard, and air bags, puts them at greater risk of injury or death during a crash.
- Pickup trucks, while big and strong, are twice as likely to rollover in a crash due to their higher center of gravity. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a crash up to 45% in a passenger vehicle and up to 60 percent in a pickup truck. It is important to always make sure that the driver and every passenger in a pickup truck is buckled up.
- Buckling up is not just for the daytime. Between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. is when more crashes and fatalities happen.
- Unbuckled passengers are also dangerous to others in the vehicle. In the event of a crash, the unbuckled passenger becomes a large projectile flying around the vehicle, who can injure or kill other occupants in the vehicle — including those who are buckled up!
The single most effective thing you can do as a driver and passenger is to wear your seat belt and make sure that everyone in the vehicle buckles up! With the Memorial Day holiday approaching and the stress of the pandemic still around, think of who will be missing you if you do not make it home because you were not wearing your seat belt. Remember to buckle up on every trip, every time!