FRANKFORT — Thanksgiving tradition is about more than turkey.
The most American of holidays also is the busiest travel time of the year, putting more people on the road and increasing the likelihood of crashes. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) is reminding motorists to buckle up and is putting a special emphasis on those traveling in pickup trucks.
“The best chance for surviving a crash is to wear your seat belt,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock. “However, the data indicate that a majority of pickup truck occupants do not buckle up, so we’re asking them to always remember to ‘Buckle Up in Your Truck.’”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belt use in pickup trucks is lower than in any other type of passenger vehicle on the road. Unfortunately, Kentucky follows the national trend.
A 2014 University of Kentucky Transportation Center seat belt survey shows the seat belt usage rate for pickup trucks is 79 percent, compared with 87.5 percent for passenger cars, 88.3 percent for vans, and 89.2 percent for sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
“There are too many people dying on our roads,” said KOHS Executive Director Bill Bell. “Many of those lives could have been saved with the simple snap of a seat belt.”
Of the 521 motor vehicle fatalities recorded by law enforcement in Kentucky last year, 347 were coded in crash reports as a light truck, which includes vans, SUVs and pickup trucks. Of the 347 killed, 54 percent (188) were unrestrained.
NHTSA estimates that proper seat belt use reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat light truck occupants by 60 percent and by 80 percent in the event of a rollover crash. While rollover crashes can happen in any type of vehicle, pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over as passenger cars.
“Seat belts greatly reduce the risk of ejection, which is common in rollover crashes with unbelted occupants,” said Bell. “Being thrown to safety in a crash is almost impossible. Your best bet for survival is to be securely held in place by the seat belt.”
Surviving your Thanksgiving drive this year – and making it to next Thanksgiving – can be as simple as buckling up.
“For those people who already buckle up every time: Thank you,” Secretary Hancock said.
“For them, this serves as a reminder, but for those people who still don’t buckle up for whatever reason, I want to say this: Buckling your seat belt is one of the simplest, safest things you’ll ever do.”