WSP Addresses Seat Belt Use Following Recent Fatal Car Accidents

A recent press release issued by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) suggests that drivers throughout Washington State could do a better job of protecting themselves from serious personal injury and death in the event of a car accident by increasing seat belt use.

Seat Belts Prevent Injuries from Car Accidents

Back in October of last year, the WSP joined the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) in announcing that Washington state was found to have the highest seat belt use rate in the nation in 2011 at 97.5 percent. The fact that it was the seventh consecutive year the state boasted a usage rate higher than 95 percent suggested that drivers in the Evergreen State are pretty good about buckling up every time they get behind the wheel.

But according to the latest announcement from the WSP, six of seven fatal car accidents in District 6 – which represents Kittitas, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan and Adams counties – so far in 2013 have involved drivers and passengers who were not properly restrained.

Sadly, the WSP news release reports that two of the six fatalities were to children who were not properly restrained in the vehicle. And with the WSP and other local law enforcement agencies pursuing the Target Zero plan – a comprehensive action plan designed to eliminate traffic-related deaths in Washington state by the year 2030.

Washington Seat Belt Use Slips in 2013

So far in 2013, the WSP has stopped 824 motorists and issued a total of 741 restraint violation citations to motorists who were driving without their seat belts. What’s scary is that the WSP claims this is a 46 percent increase in citations from the same period in 2012.

To some extent, this could be a result of WSP emphasis patrols becoming more effective and more motorists are being caught driving without their seat belt. However, such a large statistical increase suggests that more motorists as a whole are forgetting to wear their seat belts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), seat belt use is “the most effective way to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.” The CDC estimates that millions of injuries and deaths from car accidents each year could be easily prevented or reduced by increased seat belt use.

Full news release from the Washington State Patrol:

The Washington State Patrol is very concerned about the alarming trend of people killed in collisions while not wearing their seat belt. Six of the seven motorists that have been killed in collisions in District 6 (Kittitas, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan and part of Adams Counties) so far in 2013 were not properly restrained.  Tragically two of those killed were children. The Washington State Patrol is committed to eliminating all fatalities on Washington roadways. In an effort to accomplish this, troopers are focusing their efforts on changing behaviors and habits through education and enforcement, of those that do not properly wear their seat belts.

Washington motorists have some of the highest seat belt usage percentages in the nation, at over 95%. But until we have 100% seat belt usage, troopers will be looking for those unrestrained vehicle occupants, and drivers with unrestrained children.

We are asking for the motoring public’s assistance by using seat belts properly every time you drive whether it is across town or across the country. Children must be in car seats or booster seats when appropriate for their height and weight. Children under eight years old or less than 4 foot 9 inches tall must be in a booster seat. Children under 13 years old shall be in the rear seat when practical. Airbags have also assisted in decreasing serious injuries and fatalities, but are only effective when used in conjunction with the vehicle’s seat belts.

The Washington State Patrol is committed to the Target Zero plan, and so far in 2013 local troopers have contacted 824 motorists and issued 741 citations for restraint violations. This is a 46% increase in citations from this same period in 2012.

Target Zero is the state’s strategic highway safety plan, and calls for reducing highway deaths to zero by the year 2030. The entire plan can be found at www.targetzero.com.

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