Law enforcement agencies look to increase seat belt use

PARKERSBURG – West Virginia’s first Occupant Protection Blitz Period is Friday to Dec. 1.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the state will participate in the first of three such periods hoping to encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up.

“Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to save your life and the lives of your loved ones,” said Toni Tiano, with the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety Program.

Results from West Virginia’s most recently completed scientific seat belt surveys show the percentage of drivers and front seat passengers who are buckling up has decreased. The percentage of seat belt users has been steadily decreasing over the last few years after being in the high 80 percentile, according to highway safety officials.

This enforcement period is tied-in with the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The risk of being involved in a serious or deadly car crash increases when the number of cars on the road increase, and the long Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel times of the year,” Tiano said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved almost 12,000 lives nationwide in 2012. Research shows with proper seat belt use, the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers is reduced by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to serious injury is reduced by 50 percent.

During the last Thanksgiving period, 249 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide. Fifty percent of those killed were not wearing seat belts.

In 2012, 52 percent of the 21,253 passenger vehicle occupants killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. Nationally, 62 percent of the 10,135 passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in nighttime crashes were not wearing their seat belts, compared to 43 percent during the daytime hours.