Oh, brother. Another Click It or Ticket campaign, as we roll into the Memorial Day weekend.
Haven’t we had enough? I mean, what are these law enforcement people thinking? It’s 2012, for Pete’s sake! New millennium! Cars are parking themselves, nobody texts while driving anymore, everybody wears their seat belts, pigs are flying, I can see the cows coming down the path, coming home, coming home …
Whoa! What a dream that was!
Time to wake up to reality. And the reality is that a lot of people still don’t buckle up – unless they know somebody is going to make ’em do it.
Nationwide, seat belt use in 2011 was estimated at 84 percent, about the same as the 85 percent recorded in 2010. So one-and-a-half people out of 10 in the U.S. still are not strapped in while they ride. Some jokesters might ask how half a person could wear a seat belt. I figure that if I don’t wear my seat belt, half of me could be all that’s left after a bad crash. Not a very funny joke.
The reality is that seat belt laws work. And some laws work better than others, sort of based on the “make me do it” concept.
The majority of states have “primary” seat-belt enforcement laws. Those allow police to pull over and ticket a motorist solely for a not wearing a seat belt. Other states have “secondary” enforcement laws, which allow police to ticket a motorist for not wearing a safety belt only if they witness another traffic offense first.
States with primary laws average 88 percent safety belt usage. States with secondary laws average just 75 percent.
Michigan ranks first with 98 percent usage. (I thought maybe that meant safety belts keep you warm, but then I saw that Hawaii is next with 97.9 percent.) Wyoming is last with 67.6 percent.
North Carolina has 89.5 percent usage. Doesn’t sound so bad at first glance perhaps, but as Gov. Bev Perdue points out in a TV ad, 484 people in the state were killed last year because they were unbuckled.
The theme of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s advertising campaign is “Click It or Ticket – Day & Night.” Nationwide studies show that 61 percent of drivers killed in overnight accidents were not wearing seat belts, compared to 42 percent killed in accidents that happened during daylight hours.
Along with some videos and cool graphics, the NHTSA website lists a few myths: excuses people use for not wearing safety restraints, such as “If your car has air bags you don't need a seatbelt,” and “Seatbelts can trap you in a fire or underwater.”
This one should punch some buttons: “It’s not as essential for guys to wear seatbelts; they’re much better drivers.” Some people are truly delusional.
So, no excuses. Whenever, wherever you’re traveling, this holiday weekend and all year round, use the most valuable traffic safety device you have. Maybe if we hear this message enough, someday we’ll all buckle up.
Call me a dreamer.
Images from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
Are you buckled? There's only one good answer.