Grant Woodhead suffered a serious brain injury when he was ejected from his pickup in a 1997 crash. He was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, and became one of the 1,000 people who suffer serious brain injury in traffic crashes in Idaho every year.
Woodhead is featured in radio ads that are part of the Idaho Transportation Department’s Click It, Don’t Risk It! campaign to increase safety belt use. The campaign, which runs May 16 through June 5, includes paid advertising and stepped-up patrols by state and local law enforcement.
“Buckling up remains the single-best defense against serious injury or death for you and your passengers if you’re involved in a crash,” says Mary Hunter, Office of Traffic and Highway Safety. “People like Grant survive the horror of a traffic crash but then suffer the consequences of their injuries for the rest of their lives.
Campaign billboards, television and newspaper advertising will emphasize that choosing not to buckle up costs all Idahoans – primarily through higher taxes, insurance premiums and medical costs.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 85 percent of all crash victims’ medical costs fall on society, not the individuals involved. Medicare, Medicaid and other taxpayer-funded sources pay one quarter of those medical costs. Crash victims who are buckled up average 60-80 percent lower hospital costs than those who were not wearing seat belts.
On average, five Idahoans are either killed or seriously injured every day in traffic crashes. In 2004, 58 percent of the 196 motor vehicle occupants who died in traffic crashes in Idaho were not wearing seat belts.
Safety belts reduce fatalities among passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and by 60 percent in light trucks, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. In Idaho, 79 percent of occupants buckle up in cars, vans, and sport utility vehicles, while just 62 percent of pickup occupants buckle up.
“The seat belt is a free piece of safety equipment. Of all the safety features added to vehicles since 1960, one – the safety belt – accounts for more than half of all lives saved, according to NHTSA,” Hunter adds.
Idaho law requires everyone in a vehicle to wear safety restraints no matter where they are seated. Increased patrols to enforce the law are aimed at saving lives and reducing the costs associated with traffic crashes. Idaho State Police and an estimated 60 local law enforcement agencies will participate in the enforcement campaign.
“Click It, Don’t Risk It! is a serious warning to all motorists and passengers on Idaho’s roads,” Hunter says. “Motorists are reminded to properly restrain themselves and their children to avoid a ticket – or much worse, serious injury or death.”
The Click It, Don’t Risk It! campaign is part of a national effort to increase seat belt use and save lives. It is funded by $435,000 granted to the transportation department through a competitive application process.