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Seat belts save lives; wear one

This Thanksgiving holiday weekend, motorists across the state will hit the roads, eager to spend time with loved ones. It’s one of the busiest travel times of the year, and unfortunately, that means more crashes on Mississippi roads. Whether you’re traveling across town or across the country, motorists are reminded that it’s always essential to wear your seat belt.

This Thanksgiving nearly 42 million Americans will travel on the road, and buckling up is your best defense against injury or death in the event of a crash.

In 2014 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported the national average rate for seat belt usage was 87 percent. Thanks to laws in each state, seat belt usage rates have been on the rise since 1995. However, Mississippi consistently falls below the national average for seat belt usage. In 2014, Mississippi averaged a 78.3 percent usage.

According to the NHTSA, during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2013, there were 301 people killed in traffic crashes across the nation. Tragically, 58 percent of those killed were not buckled up. It’s proven that when you wear your seat belt as a front-seat occupant of a passenger car, your risk of fatal injury goes down by 45 percent.

NHTSA estimates that seat belts saved the lives of 12,584 passenger vehicle occupants age 5 and older in 2013. But if everyone had worn their seat belts on every trip that year, an additional 2,800 lives could have been saved.

No matter your Thanksgiving destination, safety is the theme of this holiday season. The Mississippi Department of Transportation offers these tips for safe driving this Thanksgiving:

• Before putting the car in drive, make sure that you and all your passengers are securely buckled.

• Be particularly sure to buckle up when you’re traveling at night; statistically, nighttime is deadlier than daytime in terms of seat belt use.

• Eliminate all distractions while you drive. That call or text can wait; put your safety first.

• Don’t speed.  Slow down and be mindful of construction work zones and animals darting across the roadways.

• Be aware of other drivers; don’t assume that everyone else is driving as safely as you.

Surviving your Thanksgiving drive this year — and making it to next Thanksgiving — can be as simple as buckling up. In the last decade, seat belts saved the lives of more 100,000 people in the United States. You can bet those people are thankful they wore one.