Highway Safety seat belt survey results for 2013 released

Brent Jennings
Highway Safety Manager

Remember this jingle? "Buckle up for safety .... Buckle up! Buckle up for safety always buckle up! Pull your seat belt snug, give an extra tug! Buckle up for safety, always buckle up!" I am certainly getting old, and I probably did not accurately capture the words, but this was a public service announcement jingle I remember hearing when growing up. It is certainly amazing what sticks (or does not stick) in my mind these days.

Our most important highway safety partner is the motorist. Using a seat belt is the single most effective choice our most important highway safety partner can do to protect themselves in a crash. Research has shown that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used correctly, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat occupants (ages five and older) of passenger cars by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. Furthermore, research on the effectiveness of child restraints has found them to reduce fatal injury by 71 percent for infants younger than one year old, and by 54 percent for children, one to four years old, in passenger cars.

Idaho recently completed and published our seat belt survey for 2013. A total of 32,251 vehicle occupants, comprised of 25,597 drivers and 6,654 outboard passengers, were observed. Seventy percent (70%) of the vehicles were cars, vans, or Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) while 30 percent were pick-up trucks.

To give you an idea on how Idaho has progressed, here is historical observed seat belt usage by District and by year along with the 2013 data. Okay, for those of you outside of Idaho go get your maps. Districts 1 and 2 are located in northern Idaho, District 3 and 4 in southwest and south central Idaho and Districts 5 and 6 are considered eastern Idaho.

Here is the observed usage by roadway type and vehicle. Pickup trucks on secondary roadways still lag way behind the average.

Idaho is a "secondary" seat belt law state with a $10 fine for those 18 and older. The kids also pay $10, but are also responsible for the associated $51.50 court costs. It should be noted that Idaho law enforcement remain dedicated to seat belt usage and continue to issue a record number of citations. Thanks law enforcement partners for your dedication. Here is how Idaho stacks up when compared to the nation on seat belt usage. It is clear that Idaho seat belt usage has gained little over the years.

An assessment of Idaho's occupant protection situation was recently completed by a panel of national experts and they came up with some very clear recommendations. Some of these recommendations include a closer examination and possible changes to Idaho's laws, law enforcement practices, communication strategies, outreach programs and evaluation of data. This assessment has provided very valuable information to act on. However, in the end the best solution is that everyone makes the conscious decision to buckle up every time they get in the vehicle. Idaho can do much better. Changing the seat belt culture in Idaho puts us on the sustained path to saving lives, keeping families whole and moving Idaho Towards Zero Deaths.

Published 3-14-14