Yes, Valentine’s Day has passed; however, that should not be the only good time to show your love by making sure that before you start your vehicle, all passengers — big and small — are always buckled up correctly.

This is even more important as we continue to see an increase in traffic crash fatalities each year. Taking those few seconds to buckle up your children into their car seats and boosters, and making sure older children and adults are buckled up, is the most crucial step you can take to protect those you love in a crash.

Those few seconds can save your family and friends from having to go through a needless tragedy. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), among passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020, over half were unrestrained.

This number of unrestrained occupants is the highest it has been in over ten years. So, we need to show a lot more love and respect for our seat belts.

Fortunately, most Texans now buckle up, but some groups of motorists continue to not take the message to heart by not consistently using their seat belts. And, unfortunately, most children are not correctly restrained in a car seat or booster seat.

Every day is an opportunity to make sure all your passengers are safely buckled up, and if you know someone who doesn’t wear their seat belt, use this message to remind them and ask them to buckle up for love!

Here is a gift suggestion for any friend or family member who does not wear their seat belt- especially your teens. Ask them to sign a pledge that they will always buckle up and have them present it to you as a “just because” gift. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths nationwide, with teens involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, according to NHTSA.

Some interesting things you may not know about buckling up that could help keep your loved one safe:

  • Most crashes happen close to home. Therefore, buckling up is important on every trip — not just on long highway trips. Going around the corner to the grocery store is not an excuse to take a chance on not buckling up. In fact, most children are killed close to home.
  • Children should ride in the back seat until they reach the age of 13. Until a child reaches age 13, their bones are not fully developed. They do not have a mature skeleton that can take the forces of the most common type of car crash, which is frontal crashes. For this same reason, it is important to keep infants, toddlers and preschoolers rear-facing in their car seats for as long as possible.
  • Pickup trucks, while big and strong, are twice as likely to rollover in a crash due to their higher center of gravity. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a crash up to 60 percent in a pickup truck. Sadly, the seat belt use rate for pickup truck drivers and passengers is lower than in passenger vehicles. In 2020, 61 percent of fatalities in pickup trucks were unrestrained. It is important to always make sure that the driver and every passenger in a pickup truck is buckled up.
  • Buckling up is not just for the daytime. A 2021 survey from Texas A&M Transportation Institute noted that drivers and passengers in Texas buckle up less at night than during the day. In Texas last year, of crashes in which an unbuckled occupants was killed, over half happened during nighttime hours (6p.m. to 5:59a.m.).
  • Unbuckled passengers are also dangerous to others in the vehicle. In the event of a crash, the unbuckled passenger becomes a large projectile flying around the vehicle, who can injure or kill other occupants in the vehicle — including those who are buckled up!

I am urging you to make sure all of those you love are safely buckled up every time, on every trip! To locate a Child Passenger Safety Technician for a child restraint check, visit Also, contact the Harrison County Extension Office, 903.935.8414 for more information.

Remember: If you love it, click it!

— Louraiseal McDonald is the county agent for family and community health in Harrison County.