Seat belts save lives - use them

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sarah Martinez
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Do you really want to be the widow, the orphaned child, the friend who didn't speak up, or the first sergeant telling a family their son or daughter is dead because they weren't buckled up?

You say it and hear it again and again - but telling your spouse, parent, friend and Wingman to wear their seat belt and wearing your own seat belt could be the key to saving those precious to you and others.

"In my 10 years as a first sergeant, I have had the unfortunate task of helping a unit deal with the death of two active-duty members in [car accidents]," said Senior Master Sgt. Michael Hoglen, 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron first sergeant. "[On one occasion] none of the passengers were wearing their seatbelts, and they died from the injuries they suffered; but during a separate car accident a member wore their seatbelt and lived."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash. In 2008, seat belts saved more than 13,000 lives nationwide. Seat belts are also the best defense against impaired, aggressive and distracted drivers.

Seat belt use is saving lives across the country and may be especially critical in a high-traffic area like on Highway 98 or the counties surrounding base.

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle website states in 2009, Okaloosa county had 1,924 car crashes, 21 of which ended in death for either the driver, passengers or both. Santa Rosa county had 1,363 crashes, 27, of which ended in fatalities.

Most would agree it's not that hard to click a seat belt, but it is hard to tell a spouse, child or parent that their loved one is injured or dead because they didn't take that simple step to protect themselves on the road.

"I don't have to know the [individual] who was involved in the mishap; but it's still sad and depressing when we lose a fellow Airman, because we're all part of the Air Force family," said Master Sgt. Russell Devino, 1st Special Operations Wing ground safety superintendent. "We don't like getting those [vehicle mishap] calls, but its part of our job. Sometimes what we learn during our investigations confirms that a few Airmen continue to make poor decisions with tragic results, but other times what we learn can help improve safety processes or training and hopefully prevent that next fatality."