Buckle up: Not just a catchy slogan in Virginia, but the law of the roads
Op/Eds, Police, Virginia

Buckle up: Not just a catchy slogan in Virginia, but the law of the roads

Rebecca Barnabi
seat belt
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I remember growing up in the 1980s and riding in the bed of my dad’s pickup truck or jumping up into the cab and going with him to get a snack at the gas station.

Of course, in those days (yes, I’m that old that I can say those days) we didn’t realize how dangerous it was to ride in the bed of a truck with our cousins, siblings and friends.

But my parents instilled in my brother and I early on that when you ride in a vehicle you ALWAYS wear a seat belt. Soon, riding in the beds of trucks was outlawed. And, for good reason.

Yesterday, I wrote ANOTHER story about a vehicle crash in the Valley and a driver who died because he was NOT wearing a seat belt.

In 2023, why is anyone driving or riding in a vehicle without a seat belt buckled over their chest and waist? Why?

Virginia made the law we can live with in 1987: all occupants of a vehicle must wear a seat belt when the vehicle is in motion.

In March 2019, while a reporter at a local newspaper, I wrote a story about seat belt use after writing FIVE stories about Valley residents who died in vehicle crashes because they were NOT wearing a seat belt. As a journalist, I was shocked and outraged that nobody instilled in them as children the importance of always buckling up.

As a driver, I always make sure passengers in my car are buckled up before I put the car in drive. Including my grandmother who lives in West Virginia where you apparently do not have to buckle up in the back seat. I don’t care what state I’m driving in or what laws you live with in another state: if you ride in a vehicle which I am driving, you will wear a seat belt.

When I did the seat belt story in early 2019, I interviewed an officer with Augusta County Sheriff’s Office who stressed the danger of a vehicle occupant who is not buckled up. In the event of a car crash, any occupant not buckled up becomes a danger to everyone else in the vehicle. The body of the unbuckled occupant acts as a projectile inside the vehicle.

Let me say it again: unbuckled occupants of vehicles are a danger to themselves and everyone in the vehicle in the event of a car crash.

After learning this, why would you not buckle up? It takes two seconds to buckle a seat belt. Most newer cars now beep at you until you buckle up.

I don’t want to write anymore stories about vehicle crashes and occupants dying because they were not wearing a seat belt.

Statistics show, and police officers will tell you from their own professional experience, that you are more likely to survive and survive with less injuries if you are wearing a seat belt when in a vehicle crash.

“A seat belt is the single most effective thing you can do in a vehicle,” a DMV spokesperson said in my 2019 story about seat belt use.

Buckle up, Virginia. It’s a law we can live with.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.