According to the annual seat belt usage survey conducted by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, seat belt usage in Missouri reached 87.1 percent this year; up from 60 percent back in 1998, the year in which the group conducted its first such seat belt usage poll.
“We’ve seen a 5.7 percent increase in usage in the past two years alone,” noted Jon Nelson, the group’s executive committee chair in a statement. “We’ve increased educational efforts through the Buckle Up Phone Down or BUPD program statewide and the survey results show those messages are being heard. Since inception, more than 5,600 individuals and 430 businesses have taken the BUPD pledge to always wear their safety belts, and put their phones down while driving.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation, which is part of the MCRS, noted that Missouri is now nearing the national average for seat belt use, which is 89.7 percent. The agency added that Missouri is one of 15 states with only a secondary safety belt law, adding that 58 Missouri cities and two counties to date have adopted primary safety belt ordinances to protect their citizens.
With 61 percent of Missouri’s traffic crash fatalities in 2017 involving an unbelted driver or passenger, the MCRS said this increase could result in many lives saved.
The group conducts its annual seat belt survey by recording data from 560 sites within 28 Missouri counties on more than 135,000 vehicle occupants. That report showed vehicle passengers and females were more commonly belted, and that occupants of sport utility vehicles and minivans also had a higher rate of safety belt usage at 86.5 percent. Pickup truck drivers and their passengers, by contrast, had the lowest usage rate at 71 percent, the group said.
“With more than 90 percent of traffic crashes attributed to human error, we know most are preventable. However, a safety belt is your best defense in a vehicle crash,” said Nelson. “Buckle up and never drive distracted or impaired.”