Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Passion for Protection

Passion for protection

As the mother of three kids, I’ve lightly dabbled in the arena where teachers excel -- the classroom. I’ve taught Sunday school, and watched the occasional classroom full of kids while a teacher goes to lunch. I’ve also coaxed my 6-year-old son to write 10 words on a piece of paper in a single sitting. Good teachers are a gift.

Last weekend, we lost one of our chosen few in a car crash when a 29 year-old Nixa elementary school teacher was killed after being partially ejected from her vehicle; she wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Missouri’s state legislature has failed to pass a primary seat belt law. However, odd as it may seem, Nixa, a small town just south of Springfield is among 12 cities that have now passed their own city primary seat belt ordinances. In those cities drivers can be pulled over solely for not wearing their seat belt. Fines range from $10 and up and include city court costs. In Nixa, the cost of a seat belt ticket is about $75.

Willard, another southwest Missouri town passed their city ordinance on Monday, Dec. 14, just after the teacher from Nixa elementary was killed. The timing is a chilling coincidence.

Other towns in Missouri with primary seat belt ordinances include Ava, St. Louis County, Creve Coeur, Ballwin, Weston, Merriam Woods, St. John, Willow Springs, Chesterfield and Herculaneum. Many of them site crash statistics in the area as the reason they’ve taken matters into their own hands, in the absence of action on the state level. Often it is the passion of a victim’s family member or friend that helps to get things moving. Possibly something like the unnecessary death of a beloved young teacher who touched the lives of so many kids.

Laws can help protect real people, so can your seat belt. Please buckle up!


tom said...

Primary seat belt laws exist in other states an yet thousands of people die everyday from NOT wearing a seat belt BY CHOICE. Murder is against the law an yet thousands of people die everyday at the hands of others regardless of the law. Laws are created NOT to protect people but to punish people for not following a government mandate. The only reasonable thing anyone can do is try to protect themselves an yet the teacher in Nixa and the 3 students in Willard decided their life was NOT worth buckling up. NO law is going to protect us from ourselves.

Steven Sapp said...

Tom - you are correct that laws are broken everyday. But valid research does show that laws do help protect people. There is a concept called the "4-E's". Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Evaluation. Think of each of the E's as a leg on a stool - with out one or more of them, the stool will fail. Highway deaths have dropped dramatically because of this concept - the auto industry started by engineering seat belts and later air bags. Many organizations educated people on the benefits of wearing seat belts. Evaluations of wearing of seat belts vs not wearing seat belts prove that you are less likely to die in a crash if you are belted. Enforcement through laws are the last part of the equation which reinforces the need to wear seat belts.
In my profession, the same concept applies to fire deaths. Before smoke alarms were required by local and national codes (about the mid-70's), over 16,00 people a year died in home fires. When engineering (development of inexpensive smoke alarms) took place, we then educated residents and evaluated the results. The number of fire deaths has dropped to less then 3,000 deaths per year. But the thing that moved smoke alarms into every home, was the codes - which are ordinances/laws.
And yes, people take batteries out of smoke alarms even though the laws say you can't.
The bottom line is, it takes all four E's to make our world a little safer. We can't save everyone from themselves as you say, but laws can help.

Happy holidays and Buckle Up!

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree people are too stupid to make a choice. We should pass laws to make them make a choice. Helmet laws to make people wear a helmet on a motor bike. Diet laws to end overweight conditions. Smoking laws to make people stop smoking. Laws to make someone wear a coat gloves and hat when its cold outside. Law to end choices! That would fix it all.