Another deadly reminder

“Seatbelts Save Lives.” That has been the mantra of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for more than a generation, but apparently a lot of people still haven’t gotten the message.

One week ago today we were waking up to news of a tragic triple-fatal accident on Saturday night, and before the day was over we would learn of another horrific triple-fatal crash.

The first accident occurred last Saturday night when a car carrying three 16-year-olds slammed head-on into a firetruck in Hancock County, W.Va. All three teens were killed and several firefighters were injured.

Then later on Sunday morning, two SUVs collided head-on in Columbiana County on state Route 518, killing two adults and one child, and injuring eight other people, several of them seriously.

While investigators have not yet revealed whether seatbelts were used in the West Virginia accident, in the Route 518 accident, six of the nine passengers were not restrained, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

While it is not our intention to speak ill of the dead or to point fingers of blame, in the Columbiana County accident we can’t help but question how this tragedy was allowed to happen.

The driver of the SUV carrying nine people was clearly not at fault in the accident, according to the patrol, but how can a driver allow that many people to ride in a vehicle designed to seat only five? What might usually be classified as a serious lapse in judgment, this time became a deadly mistake.

The infants and toddlers were properly restrained in car seats, there were no restraints available for four other children in this vehicle. The two adults had seatbelts available, but they were unbelted, according to the patrol, as was the child sitting on the one parent’s lap. Three children – including the 11-year-old girl who died – were riding in the cargo area of the SUV. The little girl who was killed had been ejected.

According to the NHTSA, ejection from the vehicle is one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person in a crash. In fatal crashes, 75 percent of passenger car occupants who were totally ejected from the vehicle were killed. On the other hand, only 1 percent of occupants wearing restraints were totally ejected from the vehicle.

Many folks in our area are still reeling in disbelief from this double tragedy, and many of the passengers who survived face a long period of recovery from their injuries. We hope other motorists before getting behind the wheel will think about this terrible loss of life, that might possibly have been prevented.

Buckle up and make sure your passengers are all buckled up, too. Seatbelts really do save lives.