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Thought counts a lot with loved ones

Opinion Column

Harris Blackwood

Harris Blackwood

On Valentine’s Day, they say it’s the thought that counts.

But one of the most important things you can do for your relationship this week is to begin demanding that those you love wear a seat belt every time they ride in your car.

We know that wearing a seat belt improves your chances of surviving a roll over crash by 75 percent. Often times, it is literally the barrier between life and death.

But we also know that people don’t take advantage of this defense enough on Georgia roads.

Preliminary data tell us that some 42 percent of the fatal crashes in Georgia last year involved passengers who were not properly restrained.

And with fewer than 50 days of 2013 behind us, the Georgia Department of Transportation can already count at least 37 fatal crashes where the victims were not wearing the proper safety equipment.

Last weekend, a horrific head-on collision in Troup County killed seven people, and according to reports, several of the passengers who were killed, including an infant, were not properly restrained.

While we know that other factors — alcohol use and speed — were major factors in the severity of that crash, we see injuries and deaths that could have been avoided by use of a seat belt all too often.

In December, for example, five people, three of whom were children under the age of 7, were injured after they were ejected from a vehicle in Toombs County.

According to the report from that crash, none of the victims was properly restrained.

If everyone had been belted, none of those injuries would have been as severe.

We must take responsibility for those we love, especially when they are riding in our motor vehicles.

It may be an uncomfortable task, ordering around other able-minded adults, but you have the law on your side.

As a driver in Georgia, you can get pulled over just because someone in the front seat of your car is not buckled up, and our partners at the Georgia State Patrol are committed to enforcing the state’s seat belt laws, especially during nighttime hours when the rate of crashes involving unbelted adults and children seems to rise.

But since a fine is probably the smallest consequence that can come from not wearing a seat belt, demand that your sweetheart wears his seat belt.

It could be that thought that counts the most.

Harris Blackwood, a former journalist who worked in both Albany and Tifton, is director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.