As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, there had been 119 traffic fatalities in Nebraska.

During the entire year of 2018, there were 230 traffic deaths in the state. In 2017 the total was 228. According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation highway safety office, 71.3 percent of the people who died that year were not using seat belts.

In Nebraska it is state law that all drivers and front-seat passengers must be buckled in and all children must be secured with a seat belt or child safety seat.

One must look no farther than an accident that occurred near Humphrey on July 10 for proof of the importance of seat belt use.

Amy Jackson of Columbus was driving a van carrying her eight children on Highway 81 when a semi driver on Highway 91 pulled out in front of her van and the vehicles collided.

This was certainly a traumatic incident for the family and they could have been included on the 2019 fatality list, but Jackson and all of her children were buckled up. One of her children had serious injuries and was taken by helicopter to an Omaha hospital, but the rest of them were all treated at the Columbus hospital.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children in Nebraska,” according to Judy Martin, deputy director of public health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “As children get older, their risk increases because they’re moved from a safety seat to a seat belt only too soon or they’re allowed to ride in the front seat where an airbag could cause injury. That is why it’s so important to choose the right seat and know the law to help keep your child safe at every age and every stage.”

Nationally, 86% of people use their seat belt, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey conducted in 2012. But in Nebraska, it is estimated that 79% use their seat belt.

Recent fatal crashes in Central Nebraska show the tragedy that can come from a split-second mistake while driving. Seat belt use is a step we can all take to protect ourselves. It saves lives and reduces injuries in crashes.

Fatal accidents are more common in rural areas than urban settings and that’s clearly the reason why Nebraska has more fatalities per 100,000 people than the national average.

Recognize the risk we all take in driving and make sure you and everyone in your vehicle is buckled up. Make this a safe summer.

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