HUNDREDS ATTEND PRIMARY SEAT BELT RALLY AT STATE CAPITOL Wide Spread Support Displayed at Major Rally
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Hundreds of people crowded into the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort today to show their support for a primary seat belt law. Those attending the rally included a broad cross-section of society.
Students, parents, teachers, business and civic leaders, homemakers, members of the medical community, law enforcement officers, safety advocates, local and state office holders and others were on hand for the rally. Many waved signs with the slogan “Saved by the Belt—Buckle Up Kentucky!”
“Two out of three people killed in highway crashes last year were not wearing a seat belt,” said Governor Ernie Fletcher. “We know a primary seat belt law will save more than 60 lives in the first year alone. Some of those saved could be your family members or mine,” continued Governor Fletcher. “This issue is about saving lives. It’s time for primary seat belt law.”
The Governor praised several lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, in the House and Senate, for their leadership on the primary seat belt issue. Current statistics show about 67 percent of Kentuckians wear their seat belt. The state ranks 47th nationally in seat belt usage.
The crowd also heard testimonials from several people, including a heartfelt appeal from Cornelius Gibson of Frankfort. Gibson survived a rollover accident in 2003. “My seat belt is what saved me,” Gibson told the gathering. “Everybody ought to wear one. Had I not been buckled up that night, I would not be here with you today.”
Angela Wayne, of Lebanon, offered a different type of testimonial. She suffered severe injuries in a car crash several years ago. She was not wearing a seat belt. The person driving the car with her that night died. She was also not buckled up.
“I still have emotional and physical scars today, years after the wreck,” said Wayne. “I am thankful for my life given to me now and for the chance to tell you that a seat belt could have made a difference.”
High school students from Frankfort and several surrounding areas were also in attendance. Teenagers account for only 6 percent of the driving population in Kentucky. But they are involved in 18 percent of all fatal accidents.
Representative Hubert Collins (D – Whitinsville) explained the importance of having young people at the event. “The younger people get the older people on a path to do the right thing,” Collins said. “This bill is a non-issue for legislative support.”
Dr. Robert Wycoff of Frankfort Regional Hospital told the gathering that he sees the difference a seat belt can make everyday in the emergency room. Dr. Wycoff added “I see people in the ER everyday whose injuries would have been significantly reduced, or their lives saved, if only they had been buckled up.”
Recent research from the University of Kentucky’s Transportation Center and from the Kentucky Institute of Medicine revealed some startling projections concerning the impact a primary seat belt law would have on Kentucky families and the state’s economy. Some of highlights include:
At least 62 fewer fatalities per year
388 fewer incapacitating spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries
1,051 fewer non-incapacitating injuries from accidents involving passenger vehicles and light trucks.
Kentucky’s Medicaid budget would save a minimum of $40.9 million over 10 years, including $2.2 million the first year and $585,000 per year for long-term medical care.
Overall, Kentucky would save $324 million in comprehensive costs (lost life years and productivity).
The recently approved federal highway reauthorization bill includes another incentive for a primary seat belt law. Under the federal bill, if Kentucky adopts a primary seat belt law, the state will get an additional $11.2 million in federal funds to use for safety improvements on state roads.
Transportation Cabinet Deputy Secretary Jim Adams is the chairman of the Governor’s Executive Committee on Highway Safety, which organized the rally. He told the crowd “passing a primary seat belt law is the single most important thing we can do to put the brakes on fatalities.”