The Washington Post
A Simple Way to Save Lives in Virginia
Regarding the June 16 front-page article “ ‘When Is It Going to Stop?’; Fairfax Students Devastated After Grad Night Crash Kills 2 Classmates, 2 Others”:
As the father of three teenagers, one a licensed driver and one in driver’s ed, my heart goes out to the families of the four young women whose lives were cut short in the recent collision in Fairfax.
As a person who has dedicated almost two decades to the care of patients injured in similar accidents, I cannot help but react with sadness and indignation when I read that three of the victims were ejected from the car; that means it’s unlikely they were wearing seat belts. One is left with the nagging question of how many deaths could have been prevented.
In Virginia, authorities can cite a driver for failure to use seat belts only if the driver is pulled over for another moving violation (so Virginia is called a “secondary state”). Despite the prevalence of “Click It or Ticket” campaigns, the police cannot stop drivers solely on the basis of failure to use seat belts — that would make us a “primary” state.
Despite conclusive evidence from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on the salutary effects of pri- mary seat belt laws in saving lives, our legislators have declined to change the law. How many more times will I have to wipe away a tear and offer a prayer that my child was not involved? How many more future leaders of America will I have to piece together surgically before our representatives see the light? It is time to amend our seat belt law. The memory of these four young adults demands it. CARY C. SCHWARTZBACH
Falls Church The writer is chief of the orthopedic trauma section at Inova Fairfax Hospital.