Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Highway Safety Officials Concerned as Number of Unbelted Traffic Deaths Rise and Statewide Seat Belt Use Rate Falls Slightly


image: highway safety logoDOVER - Highway Safety officials are calling for everyone to tighten their belts – their seat belts that is. The call for everyone to renew their focus on making sure that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up comes as a result of great concern over a significant increase in the number of people killed in car crashes this year who were not buckled up.
“We’re asking drivers and passengers to buckle up for safety,” said Governor Jack Markell. “It’s something we can all do when we ride in a vehicle. The more Delawareans wear seat belts, the more injuries we spare and lives we save. It’s that simple.”
Since January 1st, 60% of the 50 drivers and passengers killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts. This is much higher than at this time in 2010 when the percentage of unrestrained fatalities was 36% of the 50 drivers and passengers who had lost their lives.
Thus far, Males account for the majority (74%) of those unrestrained persons killed, with females making up the remaining 26%. The average age of those males killed was 43, and the average age of the unrestrained females killed was 30. The most common factors in the unrestrained fatal crashes were speeding, failure to negotiate a curve and loss of control of the vehicle, once again indicating that those who don’t wear seat belts tend to be drivers, or passengers who ride with drivers, that exhibit riskier behind the wheel behavior.
“We are very concerned about all the lives that we have lost on Delaware roads this year. The use of seatbelts is a critical part of reducing the number of fatalities in this State,” said Lewis Schiliro, Secretary for Delaware Safety and Homeland Security. “We urge everyone, drivers and passengers, to buckle up. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for someone who loves you, like your parents or children.”
The increase in unrestrained fatalities is mirrored in the slight dip that Office of Highway Safety officials saw in the state’s seat belt use rate this year. Seat belt use surveys conducted in mid-June at the conclusion of the 10th annual Click It or Ticket campaign revealed that the Delaware seat belt use rate fell .4% from 90.7% in 2010 to 90.3% in 2011. Click It or Ticket is a nationwide seat belt enforcement and awareness campaign aimed at saving lives by increasing the number of people who consistently buckle up through the enforcement of each State’s seat belt laws.
“We are taking this situation quite seriously,” said Jana Simpler, Director for the Office of Highway Safety. “It is particularly distressing to see such an increase when we know that buckling your seat belt is one of the simplest, fastest, and most effective ways to prevent being killed or injured in a crash. We ask everyone to be extra conscientious and buckle up every trip, every time. There are a million excuses as to why people don’t wear a seat belt; is any one of them truly worth risking your life over?”
Delaware law enforcement officers participating in this year’s campaign issued 1,203 citations to unbelted motorists for violating the State’s law. Over the last four years, officers have actually issued fewer and fewer seat belt citations during the Click it or Ticket campaign and Highway Safety Officials believed this to be an indication that more Delaware motorists were buckling up. However, this year that did not turn out to be the case.
Ironically, the only county to see an increase in their seat belt use rate this year, New Castle County, also had the most unrestrained fatalities. New Castle County’s seat belt use rate increased from 89% in 2010 to 90% in 2011, but accounted for 41% of the unrestrained persons killed to date. Sussex County had the lowest seat belt use rate of all three, dropping 3 percentage points to 90% this year, and accounted for 37% of the unrestrained persons killed. Kent County’s use rate also dropped 3 percentage points to 91% and accounted for the remaining 22% of unbelted fatalities.
“Troopers urge motorists to make safety a top priority by properly buckling up,” said Sergeant Paul Shavack, Director of Public Information for Delaware State Police. “Being properly restrained can substantially reduce your risk of being involved and/or injured in a crash. Remember, there is NEVER a good excuse to ride in a vehicle without wearing a seat belt.”
Highway Safety officials are developing additional strategies to increase seat belt use in an effort to prevent further loss of life. These strategies include working with health partners, driver education teachers to promote a “buckle up every trip, every time” message, and may also include stepped up enforcement.
For more information on the “Click It or Ticket” campaign or any of the Office of Highway Safety’s traffic safety initiatives, visit our website at www.ohs.delaware.go or follow us for updates on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/DEHighwaySafe .