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Things we don’t like to talk about

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By Rhonda Oaks

I know what it’s like to brag on kids. I’ve bragged on my own just like you have. I have bragged on my grandchildren, just like you have. We brag when there is anyone to listen. Doesn’t matter who, a total stranger will work when it’s about your child or grandchild.

But there are a few things we won’t brag about. Heck, we will hardly talk about it in public. State statistics for 2022 were released this month, and the truth is, many teens are not buckling their seat belts. Many times, it results in a crash that leads to a fatality.

The annual Teen Click It Or Ticket safety campaign has traveled the state this month talking about the number of teenagers killed in Texas who weren’t wearing their seat belts and reminding them how important it can be.

Of the more than half-a-million car crashes in Texas in 2022, more than 100,000 involved teen drivers and passengers between the ages of 15-20. Of that number, 360 teens died, and of that number, 162 were not wearing seat belts. That number is equivalent to three fully loaded school buses.

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers, and by closer, I mean closer to home.

In the nine-county Lufkin District in 2022, there were 13 motor vehicle traffic crashes in which unrestrained teen occupants sustained fatal or serious injuries. These crashes resulted in 7 fatalities and 13 serious injuries. Most of us know at least one teenager who has been involved in a crash or a heartbroken family who lost a child in a crash.

The responsibility really does fall on an entire community to help make sure our teens are buckled up. We all should help parents with the task of teaching a teen because we know it takes a village to get one raised to adulthood. Teachers, tell them it is the law and remind them to buckle up when that bell rings. Coaches, remind them when they leave practice. Pastor, remind them when they leave church, Employers, remind them when they leave work. We should all be reminding them.

I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I rushed to the hospital when my son was 17 and he totaled his vehicle in a crash. He was wearing a seat belt and suffered minor injuries. I know the feeling of wanting to scream in fear when I rushed to the scene of a crash where my youngest granddaughter and her mother were in their vehicle when it rolled four times after being hit by a driver who ran a red light. They were both wearing a seat belt.

I’ve told the story, how in the emergency room that day, my daughter-in-law opened her hospital gown to reveal the red, burned outline on her skin of a seat belt that worked. Buckling up saved both their lives.

We don’t like talking about losing our kids. Buckling a seat belt is the best protection any of us can choose when we get into a vehicle. In that split second before a crash, you will not have time to buckle up.

We teach our children many things because we want them to become mature, successful adults. Teaching them to wear a seat belt is as important as teaching them manners, how to eat with a fork and knife, how to study and excel in school, how to work, how to hit a ball or how to show respect.

Preparing teens for the future is a challenge and wearing a seat belt should be at the top of the list when they start driving. We want to it to become a life-long habit for them. I would much rather spend my time bragging and talking about the people I love to a total stranger than whispering condolences to someone at a funeral home who lost a child because they did not buckle up.

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