OHS Launches 1st Seat Belt Enforcement Campaign for 2012

Dover – Delaware Office of Highway Safety and law enforcement officials have some simple advice to keep you safe both day and night every time you get in a car: buckle up.  The first wave of seat belt enforcement for 2012 comes on the heels of a single vehicle night time fatal crash in New Castle County in which all 3 occupants were not wearing their seat belts.  Two occupant’s sustained minor injuries; however the driver was killed.

Seat belt use is often 10% lower at night than during the day even though a person’s chances of being killed in a crash at night triples!  In fact, more than a third of Delaware’s fatal crashes (35%) involving an unrestrained driver or passenger in 2010 occurred during the night time hours.

In an effort to increase seat belt use statewide, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety is launching the first of five waves of seat belt enforcement for 2012 to run from January 22 to February 5.  This enforcement initiative is a high visibility enforcement and public awareness campaign aimed at saving lives by increasing the number of Delawareans who regularly buckle up.

Drivers should expect to see stepped up enforcement of Delaware’s seat belt laws throughout the Delaware by State, County, and municipal police agencies who will conduct both roving and stationary traffic safety patrols.

Delaware’s seat belt law requires all vehicle occupants, even back seat passengers, to be “properly” buckled up.  “Properly” means that both lap and shoulder belts must be worn.  In particular, the shoulder belt must be worn across the chest.  Anyone who puts the shoulder belt under their arm, or behind their back is in violation of state law and is putting themselves at greater risk for being seriously injured in a crash.

The law allows officers to pull over a driver if he/she sees any person in the vehicle not wearing a safety belt.  Officers will issue citations for seat belt violations as part of a zero-tolerance policy.  The ticket, which goes to the driver no matter who is unbuckled in the vehicle, is a $25.00 fine plus court administrative fees.

In addition, Delaware’s child restraint law says that the driver is responsible for making sure all children in the vehicle are properly buckled up.  All children under the age of 8 years or 65lbs must be in the appropriate child restraint seat (an infant, toddler or booster seat).  Children who are 8 or at least 65lbs in weight, whichever comes first must be restrained in a seat belt.  Children under the age of 12 must ride in the back seat when front seat passenger air bags are present.  Child restraint violations are also $25.00 plus court administrative fees.

The other waves of seat belt enforcement will take place in May, June, July, and August.    Delaware’s current seat belt use rate for 2011 is 90%, a decrease from an all-time high of 91% in 2010.  The national seat belt use rate is 85%.

For more information on Delaware’s seat belt law or enforcement campaigns, please visit the Office of Highway Safety’s website at www.ohs.delaware.gov, Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArriveAliveDE, or Follow us on Twitter @DEHighwaySafe.

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

DOVER – 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 .