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"...(I)ncreasing seatbelt usage is the most inexpensive and effective way to reduce our highway death toll and to reduce injuries...".

-- Gov. Paul E. Patton,
in his proclamation of "Buckle Up Kentucky Month"

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Jan. 31, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- "Buckle Up Kentucky" Month officially commenced today during a press conference on the University of Kentucky Campus at the Kentucky Clinic.

Transportation Cabinet Secretary James C. Codell, III read the proclamation for the governor stating, "…whereas, increasing seatbelt usage is the most inexpensive and effective way to reduce our highway death toll and to reduce injuries…therefore, I Paul E. Patton, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, do hereby proclaim February 2002 as Buckle Up Kentucky Month in Kentucky."

Individuals and organizations throughout the state concerned with highway safety attended the event held at the Kentucky Clinic to demonstrate their of seatbelt usage.

Traffic crashes in Kentucky claimed the lives of over 846 people and injured countless others during 2001. Only 29% of those individuals were wearing seatbelts and it is estimated that at least 200 of these lives would have been saved if they had been wearing one.

Kentucky has one of the lowest seatbelt usage rates in the nation at 62% compared to a national average of 73%.

"Motor vehicle collisions account for the majority of the trauma patients we see at the University and proper restrain use can significantly impact the severity of injury incurred. Unrestrained patients die at twice the rate of those who are restrained," said Colleen Swartz, R.N., Director of Trauma and Emergency Services, UK Hospital.

The Kentucky State Police, Transportation Cabinet and Governor's Coalition for Highway will conduct a variety of educational programs during the month of February, encouraging Kentuckians to buckle up. These educational programs include contests and activities for school age children, special community events and a media campaign. National Child Passenger Safety Week also occurs in February and numerous child safety seat clinics and activities have been scheduled for this time period as well.

"By educating Kentuckians on the value of wearing safety belts, we are taking a proactive approach in preventing vehicle crashes from becoming fatal crashes," stated Commissioner Ishmon Burks. "Voluntary compliance is the key. The public must understand the importance and actually wear their safety belts."

Rep. Jodie Haydon, sponsor of the primary seatbelt law being considered by the 2002 General Assembly, was also on hand to encourage constituents to contact their legislators about this lifesaving piece of legislation. A primary seatbelt law would allow enforcement officers effectively enforce Kentucky's seatbelt law with the goal of increasing usage and saving lives.

"A primary seatbelt law would save approximately 75 lives a year," said Rep. Haydon. "Tell me, what else can we do that will save so many lives and not cost the people of Kentucky any additional dollars?"

Fayette County Sheriff Kathy Witt echoed Haydon's remarks stating, "I applaud Governor Patton for stepping forward to strongly support strengthening his previous legislation on seat belt usage. Without question, this Commonwealth needs to improve upon legislation that could save 75 lives on Kentucky roads each year and cost nothing. I say, 'Let's roll!'"

After the press conference, the Governor's Office For Highway Safety demonstrated their rollover simulator to the crowd. The simulator duplicates the traumatic effect that overturning has on vehicle occupants, even at relatively low speeds. This is one of the many tools the Kentucky State Police uses to reinforce the importance of seatbelt usage. The rollover simulator is especially effective due to the fact that opponents of seatbelts frequently use the argument that by not wearing a seatbelt you may be thrown from a car during a crash and escape injury. However, records indicate that 86% of vehicle occupants who were either totally or partially ejected in car crashes during 2000 were killed.

During the first thirty days of 2002, 74 people have been killed on Kentucky's roadways. Preliminary reports show that only 25 of these victims were wearing a safety belt.

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