Seat Belt Use In Missouri Reaches New All-Time High

Brett Blume (@brettblumekmox)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) – More Missourians than ever are wearing their seat belts on a regular basis.

But even in 2017, there are stragglers taking chances every time they get behind the wheel.

The latest Missouri Seat Belt Usage Survey shows that the state’s overall compliance rate is 84 percent, up 2.6 percent from 2016.

That still leaves 16 percent who are not buckling up regularly, leaving Highway Safety Program administrator Scott Jones to wonder about the logic behind the decision to remain unbuckled.

“A lot of people are under the impression that they don’t want to be trapped in the vehicle if it catches on fire or it goes under water,” he suggested. “When in reality, less than a tenth of a percent of crashes result in cars catching fire or going under water, so they’re really playing with some odds there that don’t make sense.”

Something else that doesn’t make sense, according to Jones, is the fact that Missouri remains one of just 15 states without a primary seat belt law.

“When they (other states) enhance it to a primary status where you can be stopped solely for not wearing a safety belt, most states have seen as much as a 12 percent increase in safety belt use,” he said.

So far, 53 cities and two counties have adopted their own primary seat belt ordinances.

Numbers show that 65 percent of Missouri’s traffic crash fatalities — 931 of which occurred in 2016 — involved unbelted drivers or passengers.

Jones says carmakers themselves could be doing more to encourage their customers to buckle up before hitting the road.

“A lot of manufacturers, while they don’t do it now, could possibly in the future install an inter-lock device when you put the car in drive,” he said. “But I don’t believe there’s any kind of push from the government to require that.”

Observers recorded data from 560 sites within 28 Missouri counties covering more than 115,000 vehicle occupants.

The Missouri Seat Belt Usage report showed that vehicle passengers and females were more commonly belted in, and that occupants of sport utility/crossover and van/minivans had a higher rate of seat belt usage, at 86.5 percent.

Pickup drivers and passengers had the lowest usage rate at 69.3 percent.

“With over 90 percent of traffic crashes attributed to human error, we know that most are preventable,” according to Bill Whitfield, chair of the executive committee of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. “Pay attention, buckle up, and never drive distracted or impaired.”

For additional information regarding roadway safety contact the MoDOT Customer Service Center toll-free at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636), or go to saveMOlives.com.

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