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According to the National Safety Council, motor vehicle accidents in 1988 were the leading cause of accidental death overall, and the leading cause of death from birth to age 78. In 1980 there were more than 52,000 deaths on our highways. By 1991 we had reduced that figure to 43,500. Obviously the campaigns to use seat belts and against drunk driving are helping, but we still have a long way to go.

It is estimated that 51 percent of the drivers of motor vehicles in the United States use their seat belts. What about the other 49 percent? They have chosen not to protect themselves from injury should they be involved in a vehicle accident. Which category are you in?

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has done studies showing that manual lap and shoulder belts are 45 percent effective in preventing fatalities and furthermore, that they are 50 percent effective in preventing critical injuries.

You can help eliminate vehicle accidents by driving defensively. But most of all we can limit our injuries by remembering to buckle up each time we get behind the wheel. Encourage each of your passengers to wear their seat belts as well. The split second decision to buckle up could mean the difference between life and death should you be involved in an accident. Here is a statistic that may convince you to buckle up -- the forward force of an individual weighing 200 pounds involved in an accident at a speed of 45 m.p.h. is 8550 pounds!

Seat belts go even further -- remember that most heavy equipment comes with a seat belt. Each employee who operates this equipment must understand the OSHA requirement that if you are seated and running the equipment, you must wear the seat belt that has been provided.