Experts emphasize need for seatbelts, especially around busy holidays

Nov. 24—Officials are stressing the importance of wearing your seatbelts this week as a recent study from the National Safety Council has deemed Thanksgiving to be one of the deadliest times to get behind the wheel.

There is a 30% increase in fatal car crashes around the holidays due to the busy roads, and experts say wearing safety equipment can reduce the chances of a crash ending in fatality.

"You can't control traffic or unsafe drivers," said Sheldon Lyon, executive director of Safety and Health Council. "What you can control is your own safety and the safety of everybody in your vehicle. It's very important to make sure you're aware of what's happening around you and drive cautious."

Lyon said wearing a seatbelt is the best defense in a car crash. Distracted driving and not wearing seatbelts are the leading causes of death on Missouri roads.

"The automobile manufacturers make those seat belts around the other safety devices in your car like the air bag and the crumple zones," he said. "All these things come together and save your life in a car crash, but they're all built around the seat belt, so you have to wear the seat belt for the other safety devices to work properly."

Data found by the Missouri Department of Transportation in 2021 showed that around two-thirds of all traffic fatalities were attributed to the deceased person not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.

"You have to consider every scenario possible," Lyon said. "No one expects rollover crashes to happen to them, but it is a common thing we're seeing. You're nine times more likely to die if you're ejected from the vehicle rather than staying in. If you crash and end up outside of the vehicle, that's usually when the serious injuries or death occur."

Experts from the Missouri Highway Patrol is also emphasizing the importance of following the speed limit and not being distracted while driving.

"It's normal for people to get comfortable with the roads they're driving on when it's a route you take frequently," said Sgt. Shane Hux of the Missouri Highway Patrol. "But remember to be vigilant. There are many things that can go wrong while driving like the person ahead pushing on their breaks, or a car drifting out of their lane so take caution at all times."

The American Automotive Association has predicted a 1.5% increase in travelers this year compared to last year. Officials say to expect busy travel through Sunday, Nov. 27.

Jenna Wilson can be reached at jenna.wilson@newspressnow.com.