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Cop Corner - Vehicle Occupant Safety

POSTED October 5, 2010 11:27 p.m.
Driving a vehicle is a constant responsibility, which rests with not only the driver, but also with any passengers. Driving a car is an activity that takes constant attention to all your surroundings, such as weather, road conditions and other traffic. Believe it or not a passenger sets the attitude of the driver. Of course all the occupants will talk to each other and that includes the driver. Conversation can cause the driver to take their attention off the road and that can lead to a severe accident, an accident that could have been otherwise avoided.
Looking away from the road can cause the driver to run off the roadway, and in an effort to get back on the road, drivers often over-correct with the steering and/or apply too much brake, which usually results in a loss of control. The car will then generally slide sideways into the path of oncoming traffic or suddenly veer right off of the roadway. Many accidents occur this way because we instinctively jerk the steering wheel and brake in a panic situation. Also, inattentiveness by the driver may result in the driver striking the car in front of them if it stops at a traffic light, for a pedestrian/bike in a cross walk, or stops for some type of emergency.
Being the passenger in a car, you can do several things to help the driver keep their attention on the road. You can adjust the radio/CD controls, climate control, talk on the cell phone for the driver and a host of other things. Let’s say you are headed to Los Angeles and the driver starts getting sleepy. Change drivers or at least convince the driver to stop for a short break.

Seatbelts Save Lives
There have been several occasions in which the driver of a vehicle has been contacted for a seatbelt violation. In many cases the seatbelt was worn under the arm of the occupant. The seatbelts are designed to be worn over the lap and shoulder. Having the seatbelt tucked underneath the arm defeats the purpose of the shoulder strap. The shoulder strap is intended to keep the upper torso of the occupant somewhat stationary during a collision. If the shoulder strap is working properly, it can prevent the head and upper extremities from impacting other parts of the vehicle causing more extensive injuries.
According to the annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), an additional three million more Americans wore seat belts last year as seat belt use rose to 82.4 percent, an increase of 1.2 percentage points. Additionally, the survey results released today also showed that motorcycle helmet use increased 7 percentage points to 58 percent.
The survey shows seat belt use in the Northeast rose 4 percentage points, to 78 percent, in the Midwest it rose 2 percentage points to 79 percent and in the West it stood at 93 percent. However, in the South, belt use dropped 3 percentage points to 80 percent. Within the incorporated city limits of Oakdale, seatbelt compliance is up to 91 percent, which is above the National average. It is our continued goal to help educate the public on the importance of using seatbelts. Drivers and passengers that wear seatbelts are more likely to reduce the chance of sustaining major injuries or death from a vehicle collision. Here are some brief descriptions of the seatbelt laws as they pertain to the California Vehicle Code.
DOT (Department of Transportation) announced in July that 39,273 people died on our nation’s highways in 2008, which was the lowest it’s been in 15 years. The nation also saw the lowest highway fatality rate ever recorded of 1.25 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This statistic shows that the use of seatbelts in conjunction with more alert/attentive drivers is reducing the number of friends and family that are injured in collisions.

27315(d) CVC states a person may not operate a motor vehicle unless the driver and all passengers 16 years and older are properly restrained by safety belts.
27315(e) CVC states that all passengers 16 years and older in a motor vehicle must be properly restrained by a safety belt.
27315(f) CVC states that the registered owner of a motor vehicle is responsible for maintaining the safety belts in good working order for the use of all occupants of the vehicle.
27360(a) CVC states a parent or legal guardian, while present in a motor vehicle, may not permit his or her child or ward to be transported in a motor vehicle without properly securing the child or ward in the rear seat in a child passenger restraint system unless the child meets one of the following conditions.  
• The child is six years of age or older
• Sixty pounds or more
27360(b) CVC states the driver may not transport a child in a motor vehicle without properly securing the child in the rear seat in a child passenger restraint system unless the child meets one of the following conditions.
• The child is six years of age or older
• Sixty pounds or more
27360.5(a) CVC states a parent or legal guardian, while present in a motor vehicle, may not permit his or her child or ward who is 6 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age, or who is less than six years of age and weighs more than 60 pounds, to be transported in a motor vehicle without properly securing the child in an appropriate child passenger restraint system.
27360.5(b) CVC states the driver may not transport and child who is 6 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age, or who is less than six years of age and weighs more than 60 pounds, in a motor vehicle without properly securing the child in and appropriate child passenger restraint system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tracks collision statistics throughout the country. NHTSA has a web site with several safety tips, new articles, upcoming changes to laws, and statistics. The web site is http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/. Remember, stay alert, don’t let yourself be distracted, and wear your seatbelt when you are operating your vehicles. Pass the word to your friends and family so we can all stay safe on the roadways.
If there are any questions regarding traffic safety, I would be glad to answer them.  Please contact me at: Oakdale Police Department, 245 North 2nd Ave., Oakdale, CA 95361; 845-3523, 847-3790 FAX, 652-2437 Cell or Email: bsavage@ci.oakdale.ca.us

Cop Corner is a monthly column provided by officers of the Oakdale Police Department, offering a variety of information and safety tips.

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