belt use in Idaho jumps 2 percent; gap
Seat belt use among Idahoans continues to rise, reaching an average of 74 percent and reflecting more than a 2 percent increase over last year according to a recent announcement by the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (IOHS).
The office conducted a seat belt usage survey in June. The survey reveals that nearly 79 percent of Idahoans use seat belts in passenger cars, 79 percent in vans and sport utility vehicles and 62 percent in pickup trucks.
Those figures reflect an increase over last years survey, which was conducted in August. At that time, a 9-percent jump (from 63 to 72) in seat belt use was observed following implementation of a new law requiring all occupants to be properly restrained and doubling the fine for noncompliance.
Most notable and exciting is that eight percent of people who didnt traditionally wear seat belts started buckling up during the past year, said Mary Hunter of IOHS.
She credits the rise to an extensive public education campaign, coupled with stepped-up enforcement of Idahos seat belt and child passenger safety laws.
Between May 17 and June 6, officers from 60 law enforcement agencies statewide wrote 9,865 citations related to seat belt use, with fines as high as $43, in an effort to get people to buckle up. More than 7,906 person-hours were dedicated to enforcing Idahos seat belt law. During the campaign, officers also made 430 drunk driving arrests and 415 drug arrests.
Usage rates varied, with a high of 82 percent in southwest Idaho (including Boise and surrounding communities) to a low of 57 percent in southeast Idaho (including Pocatello). Seat belt usage rates in other regions of the state are:
The observation surveys were conducted at 100 sites in Idahos 16 most populated counties. They found that seat belt use in Idaho continues to lag behind the 2003 national use rate of 79 percent, but the gap is narrowing.
Survey technicians observed a number of people wearing their seat belts improperly, with the shoulder belt under their arm rather than over the shoulder, which can cause serious internal injuries or death in a crash.
In 2003, 239 vehicle occupants died in traffic crashes in Idaho. Of those, only 89 (37 percent) were buckled up.
Properly worn seat belts save lives and money. In the event of a crash, seat belts reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries to people in passenger cars by 50 percent and by 65 percent for occupants of pickup trucks, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA).
These statistics are grim reminders that seat belts save lives, Hunter said. Buckling up remains your single best defense against death or injury in the event of a crash.
NHTSA research shows that society rather than the individuals involved pays 85 percent of all medical costs for crash victims. When crash victims are hospitalized, the medical costs for unbelted victims are 55 percent higher than for those who wear seat belts.
Idahos Click It, Dont Risk It! campaign is in its fifth year.
Significant progress is being made through education and enforcement; however, Idaho is still losing too many lives and incurring too many costs because people not buckling up, Hunter added.