Buckle Up for Safety

By Brad Meyer

By the Numbers

• Of the 22,441 passenger vehicle occupants who died in traffic crashes in 2015, more than half were unrestrained at the time of the accident.
• More than 2.5 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as a result of being in motor vehicle crashes.
• Young adult drivers and passengers (18-24) have the highest crash-related non-fatal injury rates of all adults.
• Non-fatal crash injuries to drivers and passengers resulted in more than $48 billion in lifetime medical and work loss costs in 2010.

Source: U.S. Center for Disease Control

It’s a sad fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans ages 1-54. And according to experts, many of those deaths could have been avoided by the proper use of seatbelts.

The tragic death of Kailee Mills is a grim reminder of the importance of seatbelts. The 16-year-old junior at Klein Collins High School lost her life Oct. 28 when the driver of the vehicle in which she was riding lost control and flipped over. The three occupants wearing seatbelts escaped with minor injuries, while Kailee, seated in the back without a seatbelt, was ejected from the car and died instantly.

“We have no idea why she wasn’t buckled,” said her father, David Mills. “The group was headed to a friend’s house only a mile or so away from our house when the accident happened. There were no alcohol or drugs involved ? just a tragedy no parent should have to deal with.”

The tragedy is a bitter loss to friends and family. Kailee was an excellent student, active in a variety of altruistic organizations such as the National Charity League, Legacy League and Habitat for Humanity. She planned on attending college to pursue a career in medicine.
“She was a wonderful girl who really cared about people,” said David. “It’s a huge loss for the community as well as her friends and family.”

To pay tribute to Kailee and to let her death serve as a reminder about the importance of seatbelt use, family and community members are creating the Kailee Mills Foundation. The organization will promote seatbelt use for all, but especially teens.

“It literally takes three seconds to put on a seatbelt,” said David. “It seems like such a small thing, but it’s so very important.”

A study by the National Highway Safety Administration states that the wearing of seatbelts provides both drivers and passengers with a 45% better chance of surviving a bad wreck. It’s an important reason lawmakers have made seatbelt use mandatory in Texas.

As of 1968, all cars were required to offer seatbelts. But having seatbelts and actually using them are two very different things. Many viewed seatbelts as an inconvenience or something only necessary for highway driving at elevated speeds. Some believe modern airbags replace the need for the regular use of seatbelts at slower speeds.

But that logic is flawed. A head-on collision of two cars traveling 25 miles per hour is equivalent to striking an immovable object at 50 miles per hour. And some airbags do not deploy at slower speed impacts, nor do they protect the wearer from being ejected from the vehicle in an accident.
State laws passed in 2009 included new safety belt requirements for both drivers and passengers in motor vehicles. For the first time, all passengers (including adults) in the back seat now must be buckled up, and children younger than 8 years of age have to ride in a child safety or booster seat unless they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.

Seatbelt use is especially important at night. The Texas Department of Public Safety reports the majority (57 percent) of fatal crashes in Texas happen at night. In 2016, of all crashes in which people died, those who weren’t wearing a seatbelt rose to 62 percent.

The sudden and tragic loss of Kailee has already created significant awareness of the issue. Klein ISD, Magnolia ISD, the South County Football League and Team Tooke Martial Arts have all paid tribute to the fallen teen.

A family friendly benefit and fundraiser is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Bareback Bar & Icehouse in Spring.

“We’ve also designed a special logo using a pink ribbon with a seatbelt incorporated into the design,” noted David. “We are going to be making these available as a tribute to Kailee and a reminder about the importance of buckling up every time you get in a motor vehicle. It’s very simple ? seatbelts save lives.”

For more information about how to donate, get ribbons and information about events, visit the Kailee Mills Foundation on Facebook @Kailee Mills Foundation and please share #beselfishwithyoursafety