TRENTON – The Division of Highway Traffic Safety is joining with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a national effort to reach out to all Thanksgiving travelers with one important message: buckle up. Historically, Thanksgiving is the busiest travel time of the year, putting more people on the road, and unfortunately increasing the likelihood of crashes.
Each year in the country, tens of thousands of passenger vehicle occupants die in motor vehicle crashes. Last year, New Jersey had six fatalities during the Thanksgiving period — three drivers and three passengers. Nationally in 2012, more than 300 people were killed in crashes on Thanksgiving weekend alone.
“It is a sad statistic, but even sadder is that many of those deaths could have been prevented with one simple click of a seat belt,” said Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky. “For those people who already buckle up every time: Thank you. For them, this campaign serves as a reminder. But for those people who still do not buckle up for whatever reason, I want to say this: buckling your seat belt is one of the simplest, safest things you will ever do.”
NHTSA estimates that proper seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate to serious injury by 50 percent. In 2012, approximately 12,174 people survived crashes because they were buckled up. If everyone had worn their seat belts that year, an additional 3,031 lives could have been saved.
“More than half the drivers and passengers being killed in crashes are not wearing seat belts. That is a major problem,” said NHTSA Regional Administrator, Thomas M. Louizou.
Louizou said that in 2012, a total of 21,667 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in crashes, so that means that more than 10,000 of those occupants were not buckled up.
Thanksgiving weekend in 2012 (6 p.m. Wednesday, November 21, to 5:59 a.m. Monday, November 26), a disturbing 60 percent—that is, 6 out of 10—of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts. At night, the statistic was even worse: 69 percent of the occupants killed at night were unbuckled.
Younger drivers are the most likely to be unbuckled in a fatal crash. In 2012, among passenger vehicle occupant fatalities where restraint use was known, the age group 21 to 24 had the highest percentage of occupants killed who were unrestrained: 2,254 fatalities where restraint use was known, of which 63 percent were not wearing seat belts. The second highest percentage of seat belt nonuse among passenger vehicle occupants killed was the 25- to 34-year-olds, at 61-percent unrestrained.
NHTSA data also reveals that males are more likely to be unbuckled than females in a fatal crash. Fifty-six percent of the males killed in crashes in 2012 were not buckled up, as compared to 43 percent for females. Right now, the overall seat belt use rate in the United States is 87 percent, which is a major increase over the 79-percent use rate in 2003, but there a lot of room for further gains.
In addition to urging seat belt use, the Division is also warning motorists that inclement weather conditions are expected for many parts of New Jersey during the Thanksgiving travel holiday.
The Division is offering the following bad weather driving tips to keep in mind as motorists make their way to their place of celebration:
- Drive slowly (at or below the posted speed limit) and adjust your speed for the changing conditions.
- Turn on your headlights, using low beams when traveling in snow.
- Give snowplows plenty of room to work. Don’t tailgate and try not to pass. If you must pass, exercise extreme caution in doing so. Remember, a snow plow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not always see you.
- If you skid, don’t brake or accelerate. Remove your foot from the gas, and gently steer your car in the direction of the skid (the direction the rear of your vehicle is sliding). When your car starts heading in the desired direction, carefully straighten the wheel.
- Slow down before exiting the highway. Exit ramps often have icy patches, sharp curves and stalled or stopped vehicles.
- Have a personal safety kit easily accessible in your vehicle that includes: an ice scraper; shovel; jumper cables; blanket; sand, salt or kitty litter for traction; flashlight; water and non-perishable food. If your car becomes disabled, pull off the road as far as possible, turn on your emergency flashers and remain with your car until help arrives. If you can’t get your vehicle off the road and are uncertain about your safety, do not stay in your vehicle or stand behind it.
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