Seat belts save lives. It's a fact -- a well-documented, undeniable fact.
Yet, it's estimated that 45 million Americans are not buckling up in their cars, trucks and SUVS.
Wow! That's just plain foolish. Putting on a seat belt dramatically reduces the risk of death and also reduces the risk of serious injury.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said an average of 38 unbelted people a day are killed in motor vehicle crashes. In 2008, nearly 14,000 motorists not wearing seat belts were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Half could have been saved if they had buckled up, he said.
"Wearing your seat belt costs you nothing and not wearing one costs everything," LaHood said.
Not only could not wearing a seat belt cost you your life, it will cost you $124 if a state trooper, police officer or sheriff's deputy pulls you over.
Law enforcement officers across the nation will be cracking down on those who don't wear seat belts. It's part of the Department of Transportation's annual "Click It or Ticket" campaign that runs through June 6.
Thankfully, this isn't much of an issue in the Pacific Northwest. Washington and Oregon are among the leaders in seat-belt use.
Michigan led the nation with 98 percent of its motorists buckling up, followed by Hawaii with 97.9 percent, Oregon with 96.6 percent and Washington state with 96.4 percent, according to The Associated Press. The lowest rates in the nation were in Wyoming with 67.6 percent, New Hampshire with 68.9 percent and South Dakota with 72.1 percent.
Some who don't wear seat belts like to argue it is none of the government's business whether they are buckled up. They feel they should be free to risk their own lives.
These people are just plain wrong. They are risking more than their lives.
This is why society has a huge stake in making sure people wear seat belts. The more people who wear seat belts the fewer deaths and serious injuries, and that keeps health-care and insurance costs down.
Two years ago seat-belt use was estimated to save $50 billion a year from costs associated with injuries and deaths.
The use of seat belts is a huge plus for taxpayers because the public would have ended up supplementing much of those costs.
Beyond that, the emotional toll from fatal traffic accidents is astronomical. Those left behind suffer.
Taxpayers end up paying to deal with many of the problems created when families are ripped apart because of traffic deaths.