FATALITIES CAUSED BY NO SEAT BELTS ON THE RISE

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Rhonda Oaks
Rhonda Oaks is the Public Information Officer for the nine-county Lufkin District of the Texas Department of Transportation. A Lufkin native, she is a graduate of Hudson High School and Angelina College. She has a background in print journalism and worked for many years as a newspaper reporter and a freelance writer. She has received eight Associated Press awards. Her articles have been published in many publications over the past 25 years.

Recently released statistics show the number of fatalities from people choosing not to wear a seat belt have risen in the Lufkin District, as well as statewide.

In the Lufkin District, there was a 38-percent increase in fatalities due to unbuckled motorists from 2019 to 2020. In 2019, there were 29 fatal crashes and 51 serious injuries associated with not wearing a seat belt. In 2020, there were 40 fatal crashes and 55 serious injuries associated with not wearing a seat belt. So far in 2021, statistics are trending upward.

Statewide, there was a 16-percent increase in fatalities associated with unbuckled motorists from 2019 to 2020. In 2019, there were 926 fatalities associated with not wearing a seat belt, compared to 2020, when fatalities increased to 1,073.

“Putting on a seat belt takes only a few seconds and it is the best defense we have should a crash occur,” said Rhonda Oaks, public information officer. “Buckling up reduces the risk of dying in a crash by up to 45-percent for front seat vehicle passengers and up to 60-percent for those riding in a pickup truck.”

With summer driving season in full swing, TxDOT is urging drivers to buckle up. Texas law requires everyone in a vehicle to be properly secured in the front or back seat or face fines and fees up to $200. Children younger than 8 years old must be restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. If a child isn’t secured, the driver faces fines of up to $250.

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