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Seat Belt Summit aimed at saving lives

The “Idaho Click It, Don’t Risk It!” Seat Belt Summit March 17 will bring together safety professionals from around the state to discuss preventing fatalities in traffic crashes through proper use of seat belts and booster seats.

Automobile collisions are the state’s leading cause of accidental death.

ITD’s Office of Highway Safety (OHS) will sponsor the summit at the DoubleTree Riverside Hotel, 2900 Chinden Boulevard in Boise.

More than 200 people, including law enforcement officials from Idaho State Police, county sheriffs’ offices and local police departments, and representatives from 25 other agencies with an interest in safety issues, are expected to attend the daylong summit.

It will feature nationally recognized crash investigator Rob Kaufman of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle. He will speak about a study that demonstrates how unrestrained drivers and passengers in crashes can cause fatal injuries to others who ride with them. The study was the basis for an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kaufman also will talk about numerous real-life crashes, including information involving children in crashes and how they should be protected.

Also featured at the summit will be a case study of Vermont’s successful seat belt campaign. Ted Minall of the Vermont Governor’s Safety Program will examine how seat belt use in that state has reached 85 percent. In Idaho, seat belt usage reached 72 percent in September 2003, an increase of nine percent from the previous year. The national average is 79 percent.

“This summit is all about saving lives,” said Mary Hunter, OHS Adult Occupant Protection Specialist. “Buckling up remains the single-best defense against serious injury or death for you and your passengers, if you’re involved in a crash.

“The greatest risk for child passengers is the lack of any safety restraint use in a vehicle. We need to be responsible for our children and take the time to buckle them up in restraints that are appropriate for their size.”

Working with law enforcement officers and highway safety partners to spread this message is at the heart of the summit, Hunter said.

Other program highlights include:

  • Future challenges for safety initiatives – Dave Ekern, ITD Director
  • Recognition of agencies and highway safety partners for their efforts to increase seat belt use in Idaho – Sen. Cecil Ingram and Rep. Rich Wills
  • Employer-sponsored seat belt education programs – Stephen Moreno, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator
  • Innovative programs to reduce crashes and save lives on Idaho’s highways

The OHS received $480,000 in grant funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The money will be used to support a May “Click It, Don’t Risk It!” campaign, which will include a statewide media campaign and efforts by state and local law enforcement dedicated to increasing safety restraint use.

An average of five Idahoans are either killed or seriously injured every day in traffic crashes. In 2002, 62 percent of the 216 people who died in motor vehicle crashes in Idaho were not wearing seat belts, according to OHS officials.

NHTSA estimates that half of those killed would have lived had they been wearing safety restraints.