Really? You're still not wearing your seat belt?

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Imagine if half of Hurlburt Field's active duty population died in car accidents over the course of a year.

Well, that same number of people did die last year across the nation - 4,152 people to be exact - according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of course there were more fatalities than that for the year - but that's the number of people who would've survived their accidents had they taken the time to buckle their seat belt.

I realize this is one of those evergreen messages that gets repeated over and over and over again, but there's a reason for that - the message isn't getting through to everyone. Now, if you're nodding in agreement with me right now, you've most likely gotten the message. But if you're rolling your eyes at me already, then you really need to soak up what this message has to offer ... that is, if you're still reading this.

Wearing my seat belt has always been second nature to me, but I became passionate about spreading the word a few years ago when I saw a young man die needlessly in front of me. 

I was driving on the interstate one night when a truck sped past me and ran slightly off the road after changing lanes. The driver over corrected and ended up running off the other side of the road and down an embankment. His vehicle flipped several times. I stopped along with other vehicles to offer help. When we found the man, he was lying in the grass, having been ejected from his truck. I watched him take his last breath. I later overheard the cops saying he could've easily survived had he been wearing his seat belt. Seeing how minimally damaged his truck was, it was easy to believe.

It's sad how many similar stories are out there. What's the big deal with wearing a seat belt? Why do people refuse to buckle up? It's not inconvenient, and once you get used to it, it's really not that uncomfortable. Yet still, thousands die each year when they didn't have to.

Everyone needs to take those two little seconds to put their seat belt on. And if you're in a car with someone who isn't wearing one, tell them to put theirs on. I do. I've annoyed my parents many times by sitting in their driveway, refusing to leave until they've buckled up.

Driving is a privilege, but it is also a responsibility. Cars provide a lot - fun, freedom, entertainment and transportation. But they can easily become a 2,000 pound death trap. That's why seat belts are standard in all cars, not optional.

So for my eye rollers out there, if you've made it this far, thank you for sticking with me. But if you're still not convinced, or if you still think you're invincible, go pay a visit to the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. They're currently mourning the death of one of their young Airmen who was killed recently in a car accident where he wasn't wearing his seat belt.