Expert: Pickup drivers among the half who do not wear seat belts
COLLEGE STATION — While nine out of 10 Texans buckle up, too many drivers and passengers continue to risk injury or death by not using seat belts, said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“According to the Texas Department of Transportation, of all people killed in vehicles in Texas last year, nearly half were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash,” said Bev Kellner, AgriLife Extension program manager for passenger safety, College Station. “Since pickups are so popular in Texas, it’s important to note almost half of the pickup truck drivers killed in crashes last year were among those not wearing a seat belt.”
Kellner said AgriLife Extension is continuing its support of the transportation department’s Click It or Ticket campaign this year by helping spread the word about the consequences of not wearing safety belts.
“When the Click It or Ticket campaign began in 2002, just 76 percent of Texans used seat belts,” she said. “Today, over 90 percent buckle up.”
She said this year’s campaign is scheduled for May 19-June 1, which includes Memorial Day weekend.
“During this time, extra law enforcement representatives will be on the roads enforcing the seat belt and child restraint laws in an effort to save lives,” she said. “Those officers are not out just to write tickets. They want to help prevent needless tragedy.”
She said using its most recent data form 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that since the campaign began over a decade ago, it has resulted in almost 3,700 fewer traffic deaths and prevented more than 50,000 serious injuries in Texas.
“After so many years of having seat belts standard in vehicles, it would seem that buckling your seat belt before driving off would be second nature,” she said. “Unfortunately, while most of us do buckle up, some, especially pickup truck drivers and their passengers, sometimes depend on their bigger vehicle truck to protect them in a crash.”
However, she noted, pickup trucks are twice as likely to roll over than passenger cars and pickup crashes can be especially serious, even deadly, due to rollovers and because unbuckled occupants can be thrown from the vehicle.
“Unbuckled passengers can also be deadly to others in the vehicle. Most people are not aware of the dangers that unbuckled backseat passengers can pose. In a crash they can become projectiles that can be tossed around inside the vehicle injuring or killing those in the front seat.”
Terri Miller, a traffic safety specialist with the Texas Department of Transportation in Bryan, said safety statistics show occupants who wear safety belts are 45 percent more likely to survive a passenger car crash than those who are unrestrained, as well as 60 percent more likely to survive a pickup crash.
According to NHTSA, young adults are dying at a disproportionate rate because they are not wearing their seat belts. Sixty-two percent of 18- to 34-year-old passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes were not wearing their seat belts.
Kellner said another good reason to buckle up is that it’s the law, and unbelted drivers and adult passengers can face fines and court costs of up to $200.
“Children younger than eight must be in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches,” she said. “Fines issued to drivers for unrestrained children in their vehicle can be as high as $250 plus court costs.”
Kellner said AgriLife Extension is hoping to get people to remember to buckle up every day — not just during the Click It or Ticket campaign.