Buckle up to save lives says charity

Road safety charity Brake is backing a police operation focusing on seat belts and is calling on drivers to check both they and their passengers are buckled up on every trip.

The charity says it's disappointed at the increase in road deaths associated with a restraint not being worn, when wearing a seat belt is one of the easiest things drivers and passengers can do to reduce their risk of death and injury in a crash.

Crash data shows that during December 2015 and January 2016 22 deaths were associated with non-restraint use - double the number of deaths from the same period the previous year. The police operation next week will focus on getting road users to wear seat belts.

Using a three-point seat belt reduces the chance of dying or being seriously injured in a crash by 40-50% [1]. Drivers are responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 15 are properly restrained, but they should also be ensuring all their passengers buckle up.

Brake is also reminding parents of the importance of using child restraints. By law children must be in a child restraint until they are 7 years old, but the charity recommends that children stay in an appropriate child seat until they are 148cm tall. Adult seat belts are designed to give protection to people taller than that, so until they reach that height, children need a child seat to ensure they are protected.

Caroline Perry, Brake's New Zealand director says: "Putting on your seat belt is such a simple and quick thing to do, and it's vital in reducing your risk of death or injury in a crash, so it's extremely disappointing and concerning that a number of drivers and passengers are choosing not to wear one. That choice significantly increases your risk of death or serious injury.

"We see the devastation that road crashes cause families and communities and wholeheartedly support this police operation. It’s vitally important you buckle up on every trip, even if you're just going round the corner. We urge drivers to remind their passengers, and refuse to carry a passenger who refuses to wear their seat belt. We're also reminding parents to make sure their children are in a child restraint until they're 148cm tall. Please remember, seat belts save lives."

Brake's advice:

  • Everyone should always wear a seat belt, on every trip.
  • It's extremely important back seat passengers wear seat belts as well as those in the front seats. An unrestrained back seat passenger can kill someone else in the vehicle, and themselves, by slamming into someone else's head in a crash as they are thrown forward.
  • Never squeeze extra people in without belts, or sharing the same belt - this can be as dangerous as not wearing one.
  • Three-point seat belts are far safer than lap belts, because the shoulder strap stops you being thrown forward. However, if only a lap belt is available, you should still wear it, as it still reduces your chance of death in a crash by a third (32%) [2].
  • Children should be in an appropriate child restraint until 148cm tall. Their seat should be appropriate for their height and weight.
  • Use a child restraint with the New Zealand/Australian Standard tick mark or United Nations E mark, and ensure it is properly fitted. If you need help fitting it, ask a certified Child Restraint Technician.
  • Always ensure your child's seat gives his or her head and neck protection. The top of your child's head should never come above the top of their child seat.

Read more advice here.

Brake is calling on members of the public to play their part in making roads safer by getting involved in Road Safety Week 2016 (16-22 May). The theme for the Week is 'Step up for road safety'. To find out more and register to be part of the Week, go to www.roadsafetyweek.org.nz.

[1] The handbook of road safety measures, Elvik R, Vaa T eds, Elsevier, 2004
[2] Effectiveness of Lap/Shoulder Belts in the Back Outboard Seating Positions, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1999

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