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Seat belts do save lives, so keep your kids strapped in...

On the world stage, Ireland's road safety record is relatively good. That statistic offers little comfort to the 190 families who lost loved ones last year, or to the families of the 168 victims who have died on our roads so far in 2014.

Despite the Road Safety Authority's candid ad campaigns - the shockingly graphic ones and the heartbreakingly personal ones - its clear some of us still think we're invincible and immune to injury.

Just look around the roads today. How many cyclists are riding without lights at night or breaking traffic lights? How many joggers are out running in pitch black clothing? How many kids ignore the red man and dash out into oncoming traffic?

If we really did pay attention to the ads and the cold, hard facts then it's possible the fatality figures would drop significantly. We know speed kills, yet how many of us have penalty points for speeding?

collisions

The statistic that really jumps out of the RSA's 2013 report is that almost 1 in 5 victims of fatal collisions weren't wearing a seat belt. That's over 35 people who died needlessly last year, possibly because they didn't belt up.

In the past 18 months I have driven past two cars where children were jumping around the back seats, visibly unrestrained. I wanted to stop my car mid-junction and ask the drivers what mindlessness they were practising. Who are these crazy parents, guardians or grandparents who think a child is safe without a seat belt? All it takes is one dangerous driver speeding around a bend, and, bang, it's game over.

As someone whose seat belt saved me in a car crash in Australia I still recall the bruising the belt left on my torso for weeks. Both vehicles were written off in the collision, which was caused by a pick-up truck driving off a dirt road straight into our path. Seat belts prevented both my husband and I hitting the windscreen, or, worse, being thrown through it. The driver of the other vehicle wasn't so lucky. His 1964 pick-up truck pre-dated seat belts: On impact he was thrown out his passenger door.

I found him half out of the car with his head badly cut. Miraculously he was still alive, albeit with a nasty broken leg. Aside from my badly bruised knee, which had smashed through our glove box, and a neck that was completely locked for several days, we emerged unscathed. Luckily, the elderly driver, post-op, made a full recovery too.

It was a scary and unfortunate accident, as all are, and one that might have had a very different ending without our seat belts. I didn't need to have that crash to realise the importance of belting up, but I wonder if parents and guardians who drive without using their belts, or who casually pop their kids in the car unrestrained, would think twice if they experienced such a scare themselves.

If our aim is to bring up our children as safely and smartly as possible then why are some of us driving, or travelling as passengers, unsecured?

And why are there kids out there allowed to travel unrestrained? Kids grow up into teenagers and the greatest number of fatalities last year were among those aged 16-25. I wonder how many hadn't bothered to belt up.


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