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Thanksgiving warning from CHP: Buckle up

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Becoming a projectile pin-balling around inside a car during an automobile crash isn’t anyone’s idea of Thanksgiving fun.

And the California Highway Patrol is out in force this Thanksgiving holiday period with an eye on seatbelt use to prevent the kind of damage an unbelted vehicle occupant could do to others and themselves in a collision.

Officer David Martinez of the Newcastle office of the Highway Patrol said officers hear a litany of excuses for not belting up – or why motorists choose to wear seatbelts improperly under the arm.

“The most common are that it’s too uncomfortable, that they just took it off or that they forgot,” Martinez said.

But officers regularly see the risks and sometimes the tragic outcomes, he said.

With regular use, the dangers go away as the good habit of wearing a belt correctly takes its place.

“If someone wears it constantly, they don’t even notice it,” Martinez said. “It reaches a point where the regular wearer feels they’re missing something if they’re not strapped in.”

Wearing a seatbelt improperly may allow a vehicle occupant to feel safe. And it could also have the unfortunate consequence of lulling them into thinking that they’re doing something right, Martinez said.

Instead, the belt is fitted improperly against the rib cage rather than the more dense, stronger, clavicle bone. That creates a dangerous force in the event of a crash, Martinez said.

“You don’t need to be a doctor to understand the difference,” Martinez said.

Kimberley Witt is both the mother of twins and a firefighter. She was strapping her two 6-year-olds, Jordan and Hayden, into backseat belts at the Auburn Town Center on Monday.

Witt said the small investment in time is something she does willingly.

“It’s a lot of effort and takes a little time, but it’s worth it,” Witt said. “That’s because of the alternative, which is not good. My husband and I are firefighters and we’ve seen the results of not taking the time.”

Witt said that with Christmas nearing, people should also spend a few moments ensuring that any packages that could serve as damaging projectiles in accidents are secure in a vehicle before starting out.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has designated the time between Nov. 16 and next Sunday as a period for “Thanksgiving Holiday Travel, Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time.”

That will coincide starting Wednesday with the Highway Patrol’s Thanksgiving maximum enforcement period. It will run from 6 p.m. Wednesday to 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

“Motorists are less likely to encounter one of our officers simply by wearing a seatbelt,” said Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow.

Last year, 32 people lost their lives during the Thanksgiving holidays due to collisions on California roads. Two out of every three fatalities were not wearing seatbelt, according to the Highway Patrol.