Idaho will receive nearly a half-million dollars from the
U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under a new grant program
to increase safety belt use.
Seat belt use among Idahoans reached an all-time high in
2003, largely through concerted efforts of the Idaho Legislature,
U.S. DOT and the Idaho Transportation Departments Office
of Highway Safety (OHS). An estimated 72 percent of Idahoans
buckle their belts, up by 9 percent from the previous year.
That translates into fewer lives lost in car crashes.
belt use in passenger cars increased to 77 percent, while
76 percent of the passengers in vans and sport utility vehicles
were buckled up. Crashes claimed 216 lives in 2002, according
to the OHS. Roughly half of the 135 victims who were not properly
restrained likely would have survived if they had been wearing
Idaho lawmakers doubled the fine in 2003 for not wearing
a seat belt and not ensuring compliance by all occupants in
U.S. DOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced Thursday that
47 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico will share
$36.4 million in NHTSA grants for states that develop innovative
projects to increase safety belt use.
Safety belts are the most effective safety device in
a car. They prevent people from getting killed in crashes,
Mineta said. These grants provide incentives to states
to enact and enforce laws that promote use and educate people
about the effectiveness of safety belts.
Mineta said that safety belts also save money. Injuries to
unbuckled occupants cost this country roughly $18 billion
each year in medical care and lost productivity.
According to NHTSA, safety belts are the most effective safety
device in vehicles, and their increasing use has saved more
than 164,750 lives since 1975. In 2003, safety belt use in
the United States reached an all-time high of 79 percent,
in part because of high visibility enforcement programs funded
The latest grant program seeks to encourage new approaches
to further increase safety belt use, with a major focus on
high visibility enforcement of safety belt laws, coupled with
public information and education.
In addition to the $36.4 million, Congress has directed the
department to use $10 million in grant funds to purchase advertising
to air during safety belt enforcement mobilization campaigns.
Safety belt use can prevent injury and death. We know
that enforcement of belt laws that is advertised and highly
visible increases belt use, said NHTSA Administrator
Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.
The innovative project grants were awarded competitively.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were
eligible to apply. New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming
did not apply for the grants. The amounts for individual state
fiscal year 2004 grants range from $250,000 to more than $3.4