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For Release: Jan. 4, 2011 
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Proper Use of Safety Equipment Can Save Lives and Reduce Injuries
2008 analysis of data supports safety equipment

The New Year is a good time to make resolutions to improve health and safety habits. Everyone should remember to travel safely to and from their destinations using safety equipment to help prevent injuries and deaths. Recent findings by the Traffic Data Linkage Project found that the proper use of safety equipment like child safety seats, seat belts and motorcycle helmets can help save lives and prevent injuries.

According to an analysis of the 2008 data (the latest available) by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Injury Prevention Service, about 235 of 383 motor vehicle-related deaths could have been prevented and $7 million in hospital charges could have been saved if proper lifesaving equipment had been used.

“The loss of one life is devastating; the loss of more than 200 Oklahomans from preventable traffic deaths is unacceptable,” said Pam Archer, chief, OSDH Injury Prevention Service. “It is time for Oklahomans to choose to take just a few seconds to buckle up or put on a helmet before each ride in 2011.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO), and the OSDH, child safety seats reduce crash deaths up to 71 percent among children. In 2008 in Oklahoma, three children 4 years and younger were not restrained and died in passenger vehicle crashes. If all of these children would have been properly restrained in a child safety seat, two lives could have been saved.

When seat belts are used properly, they are effective in reducing motor vehicle injuries and deaths. The risk of dying from a motor vehicle crash injury is reduced up to 65 percent when people riding in vehicles are wearing seat belts.

In 2008 in Oklahoma, 329 children and adults ages 5 to 89 years died in crashes while not using a child safety seat or seat belt. According to OSDH officials, an estimated 214 lives could have been saved if restraints had been used by all of these persons.

Hospital charges were 35 percent higher for crash victims not using seat belts than charges for those who were belted. Approximately $4.9 million could have been saved if all had been wearing a seat belt.

Helmet usage is 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities among motorcyclists. In Oklahoma, 51 motorcyclists who died in 2008 were not wearing a helmet. If all of these riders had been wearing a helmet, 19 lives could have been saved.

The median hospital charges for persons not wearing a helmet were 30 percent higher than charges for motorcyclists wearing a helmet. Approximately $2.1 million in hospital charges could have been saved if all motorcyclists involved in crashes had been wearing a helmet.

“The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office and the Oklahoma Department of Health encourage people to make wise choices about the use of safety equipment when driving or riding in any type of motor vehicle,” said Kevin Behrens, OHSO interim director. “This is one resolution people can make that will save lives, prevent injuries, and save money, and that’s good for all Oklahomans.”

The Traffic Data Linkage Project is a joint effort between the OSDH and the OHSO. For more information about the Traffic Data Linkage Project or how to prevent injuries using safety equipment, contact the Injury Prevention Service at (405) 271-3430 or visit http://tdlp.health.ok.gov  or www.ohso.ok.gov.

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