Safety, stop signs and seatbelts

(Photo courtesy)

By Traci Chapman
Managing Editor

One of the more gruesome parts of my job is reviewing Oklahoma Highway Patrol accident reports. They come from across the state but are something that I have to at least look at to make sure there’s not something locally newsworthy in connection with a particular situation.
Lately, we’ve had more than our fair share of terrible accidents in the general area — although those have come from the skies and not the streets. Since the first week of December, we’ve seen four plane crashes, two of them fatal, in the areas The Progress and our sister newspapers cover.

Traci Chapman

But this column isn’t about plane crashes, but rather those OHP reports – and how they can, in a roundabout way, perhaps, affect Yukon residents.
Several months ago, I began noting a couple of distinct pattern in those reports. And, whether those particular accidents occurred in Yukon or Okarche, Tulsa or Oklahoma City, something was very obvious – that the people involved in collisions wearing seatbelts more often survived that crash.
By an overwhelming number.
Now, I know that in recent years we seem as a society to have entered into a mindset that we’re not going to “let someone tell us what to do.” The mask mandates that came about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic gave a lot of people heartburn; I’ve heard many say, both in person and on social media, that they consider seatbelt laws in a similar fashion as those mask mandates.
However, no matter how someone looks at seatbelt use philosophically, the fact is – in black and white – that seatbelts save lives. According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, about half of the people killed in car accidents across the state are not wearing seatbelts; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of a fatality by 45%.
In my review of OHP records since becoming editor of The Progress, I noted only four people who were wearing seatbelts and died – and three of them were trapped in their car due to damage to the vehicle. The vast majority were not belted up and many were thrown from the vehicle.
But there’s also something else that leads to fatal accidents, something reported just this week. And while it happened in another county, it illustrated the worst of something that could happen when someone fails to stop at a stop sign – something I see on my drive to and from work at least once every single day.
We all seem to be in such a big hurry – we have so much to do, we have to get to work, make sure the kids are at school on time, want to meet friends, get to the gym or the grocery store.
The problem is that we are often in such a big hurry that we forget that the smallest decision we make can have the biggest consequences.
That’s perhaps especially true when it comes to making a full stop at a stop sign. I drive to Yukon from south of Mustang and am not exaggerating when I say that I either see someone else or am myself cut off every single day at least once traveling along Clear Springs/Cemetery Road. Just last week, someone darted out in front of a car in front of me, forcing that person to swerve onto the shoulder.
In some cases, a person will slow down but not stop; in many others, they don’t even hesitate, blowing through the stop in a rush to be on their way, I suppose. In one subdivision slightly south of Yukon city limits, I have never – not once – seen a driver even slow down coming out of there onto the main thoroughfare.
A recent accident report I saw detailed exactly that kind of driving – a woman failed to yield (or even slow down) and drove into the path of another driver, who couldn’t stop and hit her. She was killed; while the driver of the other car was not seriously injured, that accident will likely haunt him forever.
Two families impacted by either a pattern of not stopping or a split-second decision by the driver who didn’t stop. It’s just not worth it, not for literally a few seconds that could be gained by not taking the time and trouble to follow the law — and show consideration and care to other drivers, who all have families and places to get to, as well.