It was another deadly weekend in Franklin County. Two Franklin County men were killed in separate vehicle crashes.

A 27-year-old Union man was killed Friday night when the Jeep he was driving left the road, struck a tree and caught fire. A 65-year-old man from St. Clair died Sunday morning after he lost control of his pickup and struck a fence and a tree.

Our hearts go out to the families of both men whose lives were tragically cut short. Undoubtedly, they left behind family and friends who loved them and whose lives will forever be altered. Every traffic fatality bears unspeakable grief for the friends and families of the victims.

Two separate accidents. Two grieving families. That part of the equation never changes.

We don’t know if the two men had a connection with each other but they had one thing in common, according to the Missouri Highway Patrol — they weren’t wearing their seat belts.

Seat belts save lives. We all know that. Firemen, troopers, deputy sheriffs, police officers, EMTs, emergency room doctors and nurses and coroners who witness the aftermath of traffic accidents up close and personal tell us that — over and over. They don’t hesitate when they say the simplest most effective life-saving measure in a car is buckling up.

Yet, for some reason, we don’t always follow their advice.

Despite a law requiring both drivers and passengers to belt up while the vehicle is moving, Missouri continues to lag behind the national average for seat belt use. Only 79 percent of Missourians use their seat belts compared to the nationwide average of 85 percent. The percentage of Missouri teenagers using seat belts is around 67 percent.

We know seat belts save lives. Would they have saved the lives of the two men who died over the weekend? Only God knows the answer to that question.

What we do know is that a Missouri driver’s chance of being killed in a traffic crash if not wearing a seat belt is 42 times greater than that of a driver who is buckled up. Using a lap/shoulder belt reduces your chances of being killed or seriously injured in a crash by 45-50 percent.

Consider this statistic for a moment. For drivers involved in traffic crashes not killed or injured, 97.5 percent were wearing their seat belt at the time of the crash.

Last year 741 people died in traffic crashes in our state, according to preliminary figures released by the Missouri Highway Patrol. That comes out to about one traffic-related fatality every 11.1 hours. Officials say roughly 62 percent of those killed were not wearing a seat belt.

The chance of being in some kind of traffic crash in your lifetime is virtually 100 percent. Don’t play the odds, buckle up.

Wearing a seat belt will not keep you from getting into an accident, but it can save your life if you do.