Rural safety belt initiative begins

According to an announcement received by Historic City News today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that rural drivers and their passengers are among the least likely American motorists to regularly use their safety belts.

In fact, 1,445 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in rural areas of north Florida during 2007, and 30 percent of people killed in those crashes were not using their safety belts at the time of the crash.

That is why St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is joining forces with NHTSA, the Florida Department of Transportation, state and local leaders across a 36-county region in north Florida to launch a high visibility enforcement initiative in mid-March called “Click It or Ticket – Rural Safety Belt Initiative.” The goal is to reduce injuries and save lives by convincing more rural drivers and their passengers to always buckle up.

We want to send the ‘Click It or Ticket” message out in a clear and concise manner,” said the Sheriff’s Office Traffic Commander Lt. John Donlon. “Too many drivers and their passengers are injured or killed, so we want to make sure they are buckled up – every trip, every time.”

Drivers and passengers in rural areas, and particularly those in pickup trucks, have much lower safety belt usage rates than the occupants of all other vehicles. In 2008, the observed safety belt use rate among pickup truck drivers and passengers in the 36-county area was 76 percent compared to the 81 percent in cars and over 85 percent in vans and SUVs.

This decreased belt use is why state and local law enforcement officials in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee are joining together to launch a variety of outreach activities including television and radio promotions where rural traffic fatalities have been most prevalent.

The “Click It or Ticket” rural safety belt initiative has begun.

“We are going to step up enforcement efforts to remind everyone to always wear their safety belts,” said Lt. Donlon. “The simple step of buckling up is the single best defense against ejection and will increase your odds of survival in a light truck crash by as much as 80 percent in the event of a rollover.”

While rollovers can occur in any kind of passenger vehicle, pickup trucks are twice as likely to rollover as cars, because they have a higher center of gravity. The ejection rate for occupants of light trucks in a crash is nearly double the rate for vehicle occupants, mostly due to the lack of safety belt use.

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