The last time I wrote a post about the failure of young people to wear seat belts, it brought rain in the form of angry e-mail suggesting it was “piling on” the grief of those the young people left behind when they were killed. So this disclaimer: Your loss is painful, of course and nobody is blaming anybody. But parents shouldn’t be getting phone calls late at night that their children are dead in a crash they might have survived.
Today, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced a contest for Minnesota teenagers in grades 9-12 to produce a 30-second PSA promoting seat belt use.
Why? Because of this: In Minnesota during 2008-2010, 100 teen vehicle occupants (ages 13-19), were killed and only 39 were belted. Another 483 teens were seriously injured in crashes and only 229 were belted.
So far this year, there have been 268 traffic deaths and there’s no reason to think that the statistics are going to be any different — the younger the driver, the less likely to wear a seat belt. Why not?
Sheri Klemow, an ER doc who posts at the Type A Parent website, wondered the same thing last week when her son’s soccer practice was canceled because his coach’s teenage daughter was killed in a crash. She wasn’t wearing a seat belt.
I have sutured and put back together the faces of countless non-seat belt wearing patients who were lucky to just have facial injuries. Each time, as I am suturing their faces, I have a conversation about why they didn’t have their seat belt on. I am always quick to point out that they are very lucky this time, and that G-d has given them a small warning. Do they heed my advice? I am not sure. I can only continue on my campaign to promote seat belt use. That is why I am writing this blog.
Today’s email saddened me even more. The coach’s niece’s name was the same as my teenage daughter(just spelled a little different). My 19-year-old daughter is named after my sister, who was 17 and killed in 1961 in a car accident. She wasn’t wearing her seat belt. My sister was the front seat passenger, in a car with a teenage driver and 2 rear seat passengers. They were only going out for a quick bite to eat, so she told my father. “Be right back,” she told my father.
In those days, they called you on the phone and told you that your daughter was dead and that you should go to the ER to identify her body. After ripping the phone from the wall, my father drove up to the hospital, entered the morgue all alone, to see his beautiful daughter’s body lying on the stretcher. Something that he talked about until the day he died at age 92. A long life time for “what ifs.”