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Police drive home safety message; Seat belts work in crash demo.

Byline: Linda Bock

The only belt that does not need to be buckled this Thanksgiving is the one around your waist after a big turkey dinner.

"Not the belt in your vehicle," said Phil Weiser, regional administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Mr. Weiser, along with officials from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, state police, local police and the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, held a news conference yesterday to use statistics, a real-life story and a dramatization to drive home the role of seat belts in saving lives.

Of the 227 people killed in vehicle crashes in 2008, 72 percent had not buckled their seat belts, according to state police Lt. Robert McGrath.

There were 389 people killed on the country's roadways during the Thanksgiving weekend last year, and of those, 55 percent were not wearing seat belts, according to the national highway officials.

More dramatic, Mr. Weiser said, is that of the 389 people killed last year, 231 were killed at night. Of those, 67 percent were not wearing seat belts.

"Seat belts work," Mr. Weiser said. "Everyone knows that."

Crash survivor John Byler of Harvard gave a compelling account of how seat belts saved his life and that of his son on Interstate 495 in September 2005. Mr. Byler was driving in the middle lane when another vehicle slammed into his car. The car wound up in the grass on the side of the road. Mr. Byler suffered a brain injury, and his son suffered a concussion.

"It was a relief we were both alive," Mr. Byler said. Both of them were wearing their seat belts. "We instilled the habit of buckling up when we close the car door."

Emily Ring of the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts said car accidents are one of the leading cases of brain injuries, and she urged people to buckle their seat belts.

State Police Sgt. Daniel J. Griffin and Trooper Brian K. Talbot demonstrated yesterday what can happen to an adult and two children when they do not wear seat belts. In controlled rollovers, unbelted stuffed mannequin "passengers" were flung around inside a rotating vehicle. An unbelted adult was partly ejected from the spinning vehicle, a toddler mannequin was thrown from the car and a baby mannequin was thrown several feet away. When the mannequins were belted, they all stayed in the seats.

Sgt. Griffin said some adults appropriately buckle their children in, but then fail to buckle their own seat belts. Passengers who do not wear seat belts can be propelled inside the vehicle during a crash and can suffer serious injuries or kill or injure another occupant. Both troopers also warned people against relying on air bags to protect them.

"Technology's great," Sgt. Griffin said. "But it's not going to work unless you're wearing seat belts."


CUTLINE: (PHOTO) Trooper Brian K. Talbot watches as the leg of a mannequin comes out of the window of a car during a demonstration of what happens to passengers who are not belted in. Sgt. Daniel J. Griffin is reflected in the windshield. (GRAPH) Safety belt use

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 17, 2009
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