The statistics are staggering.
According to a recent report from the state’s Department of Transportation, wearing a seatbelt betters the chance of surviving a crash by up to 60 percent.
Eighteen people died in automobile-related accidents on Valley roadways in 2012 — more than half were not wearing seat belts. Recently released statistics from PennDOT show that statewide, more than 500 unrestrained people were killed last year.
Through the first three months of 2013, eight have already lost their lives on Valley roadways, nearly half of whom were not wearing a seat belt, including the most recent — 35-year-old Ellen Kear, of Turbotville.
Kear was thrown from her Toyota Matrix after a five-car pileup on Easter Sunday on Route 15 near the Lewisburg Sheetz gas station and run over by another vehicle. At the scene, one emergency responder commented that she probably would have survived if she were wearing the proper restraint.
Seat belts are not foolproof. There is no guarantee that a seat belt will save your life, but the statistics do show that it greatly improves the odds of walking away from the carnage and sparing those who care about you the agony of wondering what may have been.
Before anyone lumps Kear into the ever-growing statistical pool that illustrates the importance of seat belts, please remember that she was more than just a statistic. She was a mother, daughter, sister, cousin, co-worker and friend. She was someone who touched the lives of others — not just in our local region but well beyond.
Then, consider 500 others across the state who lost their lives last year in accidents where they were not properly restrained. People from all different backgrounds, each with a web of loved ones and friends left behind to pick up the shattered pieces and wonder what happened.
In the wake of a these tragedies, it is normal to point fingers and blame others. It is a typical part of the grieving process.
Our fellow citizens and neighbors and those they left behind, deserve much more than finger-pointing, excuses and what-ifs. Their deaths should not be in vain.
Each time we get behind the wheel, we have a choice — to buckle or not to buckle.
A 60 percent better chance of survival is not a sure thing, but, remember friends and loved ones are counting on us to make the right decision. Those odds beat the alternative.