Working together to keep more families safe this Thanksgiving holiday, law enforcement agencies statewide and ITD will join in an enhanced seat belt and impaired driving education and enforcement campaign beginning Monday (Nov. 12).
The goal of the combined effort is to reduce deaths and serious injuries on Idaho highways caused by impaired drivers and unbelted motor vehicle occupants.
"It is never OK to drive impaired. If you are caught, you will be arrested," said Kevin Bechen with ITD's Office of Highway Operations and Safety (OHOS). "There were 110 people killed in drunk driving crashes last year in Idaho and 316 critically injured. Many of these family tragedies could have been prevented if everyone had buckled their seat belts and if the drunk drivers had instead used sober, designated drivers."
Last year, 61 percent of occupants killed in traffic crashes were not wearing seat belts, according to ITD statistics. Further, 69 percent of those killed in drunk driving crashes were unrestrained.
In single-vehicle rollover fatalities as well as youthful driver fatalities, 73 percent of those killed were unrestrained.
"Buckling up remains the single, best defense against serious injury or death for you and your passengers if you're involved in a crash," said Mary Hunter with OHOS.
"It is especially important to set a good example for family members this Thanksgiving holiday by choosing to not drive impaired and insisting that everyone in your vehicle wear a seat belt," she said.
A recent survey conducted by ITD and the state's public health districts showed that fewer people are buckling up in Idaho. The state's seat belt use rate fell from nearly 80 percent in 2006 to 78.5 percent this year. Seat belt use by occupants dropped in all types of motor vehicles.
Funding for Idaho's seat belt program declined the last two years.
Nationwide, funding for highway safety-related seat belt efforts was provided by Congress through incentive programs designed to encourage states to enact and enforce laws requiring the use of seat belts in passenger motor vehicles. This year, Idaho was ineligible for $4.5 million in national highway funding for failing to strengthen the state's seat belt laws.
Idaho's current seat belt fine is just $10 - one of the lowest in the country.