FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 9, 2013) - June isn't just National Safety Month - it's also the beginning of summer and the season of road trips and vacations. Unfortunately, the Army loses nearly two squads of Soldiers a year in accidents where seat belts weren't used. The numbers are going down from the spike we saw in 2010, when 29 unbelted Soldiers died, to 13 at the close of fiscal 2012. Accident reviews show that had seat belts been worn, nearly half these Soldiers would still be in the ranks because the survivable space inside their vehicles wasn't compromised.

Here's a mental graphic to help illustrate why seat belts are so important. Imagine running as fast as you can, into a wall. Do you think you could stop yourself if the wall suddenly appeared two feet in front of you? This is what happens when the front of your car hits something at only 15 miles per hour. The vehicle stops in the first tenth of a second, but you keep moving at the same rate until something stops you, whether it's the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. At 30 mph you hit the wall four times as hard as you would at 15 mph, roughly the same impact you'd feel if you fell three stories.

If your vehicle crashed into a telephone pole at 50 mph, the force of the pole would bring the car to an abrupt stop. But your speed would remain the same, and without a seat belt, you'd either slam into the steering wheel or fly through the windshield at the vehicle's original speed. Just as the pole stopped the car, the dashboard, windshield or road would slow you down by exerting a tremendous amount of force on your vulnerable body.

A seat belt, when worn properly, keeps the human collision from happening. The idea behind seat belts is simple: They keep you from flying through the windshield or hurtling toward the dashboard when your car comes to an abrupt stop. You keep going in a crash because of inertia, but seat belts spread the stopping force across sturdier parts of your body to minimize damage.

Per Army Regulation 385-10, vehicle operators are responsible for informing passengers of restraint system requirements and the senior occupant is responsible for ensuring enforcement - even off duty in private motor vehicles. In situations where the senior occupant cannot be determined, the driver is responsible for ensuring enforcement.

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