Wearing seat belts saves lives

For every 1 percent increase in seat belt usage in Michigan, 10 lives are saved and 130 injuries are prevented.

May 27, 2014 - Author: Elaine M. Bush, Michigan State University Extension

According to the National Safety Council, seat belts save lives. Studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated that in 2012 alone, an estimated 12,174 lives were saved by seat belt use in passenger vehicles.

In 2013, seat belt use in the United States ranged from 68.7 percent in South Dakota to 98.2 percent in Oregon with a national average of 87 percent. Though the national average is a record high, increasing it would save additional lives. Officials note that currently, 61 percent of traffic fatalities that occur at night involve individuals who were not wearing seat belts while non-seat belt usage is involved in 43 percent of daytime traffic deaths.

Although Michigan is one of 19 states that achieved a seat belt use rate of at least 90 percent in 2013, state safety officials are urging drivers to help increase that number. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) hopes to achieve 95 percent seat belt usage during 2014, a 2 percent increase over the statewide 93 percent usage rates for 2013. They estimate the 2 percent increase would likely prevent 20 deaths and 260 injuries in Michigan annually.

During the month of May, many states including Michigan join the U.S. Department of Transportation in their annual Click It or Ticket campaign, an effort to remind motorists of the importance of seat belt usage. Nationally, 10,000 agencies will be involved in this annual awareness and enforcement campaign. In Michigan, 800 enforcement zones will be established in 40 counties with staff from 234 law enforcement agencies including local police, county sheriff departments and Michigan State Police. The fine in Michigan for failing to use a seat belt is currently $65. Advertising efforts to alert drivers to the annual enforcement campaign have included billboards, television, radio, and the Internet. Several videos can be viewed on YouTube including one created specifically for Michigan drivers.

Though dates and the extent of individual state Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaigns vary, the goal of all these efforts is to insure all persons in moving vehicles are properly restrained by seat belts on each and every trip. Michigan law requires drivers, front seat passengers and anyone under age 15, regardless of location in the vehicle, to be buckled at all times. Children must ride in approved, correctly installed age-appropriate child/ booster seats until age 8 or until they reach the height of 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Two age groups being targeted by advertising this year in Michigan are young men 16-29 and teenagers, as past statistics indicate lower usage rates for both groups.

Commercial truck drivers are not exempt from seat belt laws and the Michigan State Police Motor Carrier Division will be focusing additional enforcement efforts on those drivers during the Michigan campaign.

You can help increase Michigan’s seat belt usage rate by making sure that you and every passenger in your vehicle are correctly restrained. Take time to talk with your children about the importance of always buckling up as there may be times they are riding in a vehicle driven by a friend’s parent. If you have teenage drivers in the family, insist that they agree to never put the car into motion until all their passengers are securely belted in.

For helpful resources to assist in discussing important issues with your children, visit the Michigan State University Extension website. If the information you desire is not easily located there, feel free to contact your local Extension office or post your question online to receive a reply from an Extension expert.

Tags: livable communities, msu extension

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