“I never wore seat belts before,” Chris Pope said.
But that two-second effort to secure themselves and their children paid off.
Driving 75 miles-per-hour, Chris overcorrected during the drive and the vehicle flipped three times and rolled twice.
Once it landed on its wheels, the shocked parents looked around to find their sons safe and sound with some minor bruising. Lea was taken in and checked for an injured shoulder, was later released.
“We don’t doubt that the seat belts saved us all,” Lea Pope said. “We were surprised. We all wear them now, definitely. It takes two seconds to put them on, but (without them) can almost kill a family, too.”
Northern Nevada law enforcement and first responders joined in a mass of motorcycles, trucks and support vehicles Thursday in a regional effort to kick off the 2012 national “Click it or Ticket” Campaign — starting a two-week enforcement mobilization to ensure drivers are using seat belts properly and often.
This year’s theme, “Always focus on your driving and be certain that everyone riding in the vehicle is buckled up every trip, every time,” was broadcast throughout the press conference as officers from Reno, Washoe county Sheriff’s Office, Sparks, Nevada Highway Patrol and representatives from Renown Regional Hospital and the Department of Public Safety stood by.
“This is something we stand behind,” said Deputy Armando Avina, spokesman of Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. “We all know accidents are something somebody can’t plan. If you have that seat belt on, there’s a greater chance of surviving it. We recommend, as soon as you sit down, sit back and secure it first.”
Avina said the best plan is to make sure passengers are also secured properly every time. After awhile, securing seat belts becomes routine, he said.
“It only takes a moment and it can save your life,” Avina said.
In the City of Reno, there have only been four fatalities of drivers not wearing seat belts in 2012, said Sgt. Joe Robinson of the police department’s Traffic Division.
“We encourage everyone to buckle their seat belts because it could save their lives,” Robinson said.
Reno’s traffic division has 12 motorcyclists, six accident investigators and two detectives dedicated to accident investigations.
Jennifer Allen, a nurse at Renown Regional Medical Center said the medical teams at the center see a variety of injuries, the most serious are the victims who were not restrained.
The medical personnel are trained the treat those who arrive as victims of accidents, but are now starting to educate patients as well, Allen said. As part of the patient-release procedures, nurses speak to people about proper seat belt use.
Parents of children in the emergency room and are also educated about the seriousness of proper use of child restraints, Allen said. The parents are helped with the services and/or get new child safety seats prior to their children’s discharge.
“Even if we can see one person restrained or restrained appropriately, it makes a big difference,” Allen said.
Nevada’s seat belt use has stayed consistently above the national average at 94.1 percent, compared to the national average of 84 percent in 2011, the state Department of Public Safety reported Thursday. But event at the current usage, some 180,000 Nevadans are still not using seat belts.
Some 56 percent of the state’s vehicle traffic deaths occur in urban areas, but in rural areas, that number doubles per motorist. In 2010, the Department of Public Safety estimates that 95 lives were saved in Nevada.
“Another disturbing fact is that nearly 50 percent of the 61 fatalities this year in automobile crashes in Nevada were not wearing seat belts,” according to the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety.
Nevadans cannot be stopped by law enforcement primarily for not using a seat belt, but there are hundreds of other reasons why officers can stop drivers, then issue costly tickets for non-usage of restraints.
To learn more about the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Zero Fatalities program, visit www.zerofatalitiesnv.com/prevention-road_to_zero.php.