If you have ever been in a vehicle accident, especially one where your kids were in the car, you understand just how scary that feeling really is. I know it all too well, unfortunately! We have been in a few accidents, and while none of them were any fault of my own, it was no less scary.
On impact, you are first startled and then your adrenaline is rushing through your body – you are ready to break out into tears. But then you look behind you, at your kids (and in our case, our dog!) buckled up in their seat belts, and realize that everyone is okay. It is all okay. I still broke out in tears, but had to hold it together for my kids. One of those accidents was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me while driving. A car (with no insurance) pulled out and slammed hard into the side of our van. The impact was so great, that it pushed us across 2 lanes of traffic. Thankfully, there were no oncoming cars and we were able to get out of the way quickly.
Hopefully, if you have ever been in a car accident, it was minor enough that everyone was okay. But not all accidents are the same – some are much worse than others. From 2011 to 2015, an estimated 343,000 children age 8-14 were injured while traveling in passenger vehicles, and an additional 1,692 children died! YIKES, that is so sad! A full 50% of those who died were unrestrained at the time of the crash. Those are sobering statistics and as a parent of children that fall into that age bracket, I can only imagine asking the question, “What if they had been buckled up?”
My kids know that when they get in ANY car, the first thing that they do is buckle up! It has been that way since they were old enough to be out of a car seat and into a regular seat belt. And if any child was getting into my car, I would make them buckle up, even if they were not my own kids. As parents, we can also encourage them and lead by example – we buckle up first thing, every time we get in the car.
Now, my kids are 17 years old and that is still the first thing they do when they get into their own cars or when friends get into their cars with them. It is just second nature to them to buckle up – without question. So knowing they know that and knowing that is just a habit for them, well, that makes my stress level slightly lower. But honestly, does that stress ever go away? I basically worry myself sick every time they take off from the driveway and head out on the open road.
Last year there was a student at my kids rival high school that was driving home from a day of hunting and flipped his car. He was ejected from the car and did not make it. THIS is what I worry about when my kids take off and drive every day. But they know my worry, we talk about it, a lot. And they are safe drivers - but that doesn't mean that something cannot happen. You simply never know. So making sure, at least, that they are buckled up every time they get in the car eases my nerves a little.
This spring, the Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are unveiling new PSAs featuring characters from Fox’s upcoming summer road trip adventure Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. The PSAs remind parents and caregivers that even if kids argue and plead, parents should stand firm and always insist that their kids buckle up and sit in the back seat (the safest place for kids under the age of 13). The movie chronicles a family’s misadventures throughout their summer road trip, which makes for a perfect fit with NHTSA’s road safety message.
Sometimes, fighting the kids to buckle up and making them understand the importance of it can be a never-ending battle. But when it comes to their safety, I am relentless and that is just something that I do not compromise on. Buckling up is not a negotiation! That’s why the new PSAs encourage us to: “Never give up until they buckle up!”
For more information or if you need more tips to convince your tween to buckle up, visit SaferCar.gov/KidsBuckleUp. If you have a great tip, join the conversion on social media using: #KidsBuckleUp.