Buckle Up, Colorado!


Buckle up for safety!
Seat belts save lives.
You can learn a lot from a dummy. Buckle your safety belt.
Hug your kids at home, but belt ‘em in the car!
Buckle Up, Always
Click It Or Ticket!The messages are more than catchy ad slogans and statistics prove the point: lives are saved every year because people took the time to fasten their seat belt and those of loved ones.For the fourth year in a row, the number of deaths from traffic accidents in the United States went down in 2009, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation. And reported traffic deaths were the lowest in 55 years.

Data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows projected 2009 traffic fatalities will be 33,963, which is a drop of 8.9% from the 37,261 fatalities in 2008. Furthermore, the 2009 fatality rate will be the lowest on record, down to 1.16 fatalities per 100 million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).

Similar declines were reported earlier this year by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which projects that the 2009 traffic death toll will be the lowest in three decades.

In 2009, 464 people were killed in traffic crashes in Colorado, a 15% drop from the 2008 total of 548 people.  Last year is also the first time traffic deaths dropped below 500 since 1988.

Even though Colorado’s total VMT count has increased almost 70% over the past two decades, the state has seen a steady decline in motor vehicle fatalities this century.

Authorities credit several factors for these national and state declines in traffic deaths, including improved safety engineering in cars, stricter DUI laws and enforcement and seat belt laws.

While every state except New Hampshire has some sort of seat belt law; only 31 states and the District of Columbia have a primary seat belt law allowing law enforcement officials to stop cars in which they observe seat belt violations.

In states with secondary laws, including Colorado, officers must have some other reason to stop a vehicle before ticketing an occupant for not using a seat belt.

Nationally, it seems to be working: NHTSA data shows seat belt use across the United States in 2009 hit a record 84%, which is a point higher than 2008. For each percent increase in seat belt use, the NHTSA estimates 280 lives will be saved.

Colorado’s seat belt use may be suffering from the lack of a primary seat belt law as the current rate is 81%. The NHTSA reports that those states with primary seat belt laws have a 13% higher average seat belt use rate than secondary enforcement states. If seat belt use in Colorado went up to 90%, another 32 lives and $111 million could be saved each year.

The financial toll is substantial – traffic crashes cost the nation about $230 billion each year in medical expenses, lost productivity, property damage and related costs.

But the loss of life in traffic accidents is the highest price exacted on society. And it’s all the more frustrating and heart-breaking because so many deaths each year could be prevented by simply fastening a seat belt.

“It’s the single most effective traffic safety device ever invented,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said. “By failing to wear your seat belt, you not only risk serious injury or death, you also risk getting a ticket.”

More and more states, including Colorado, are using “Click It or Ticket” campaigns to make sure drivers know the laws on seat belts and take the time to use them. Campaigns typically include TV, print and radio advertisements alerting drivers to the stepped-up enforcement and are scheduled around Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.

Nevertheless, it seems a lot of folks aren’t getting the message.

The Colorado State Patrol and 88 law enforcement agencies recently took part in a statewide “Click It Or Ticket” campaign around Memorial Day, from May 24 to June 6.

Despite the high-profile warnings that the blitz was coming, officers issued 10,326 seat belt citations during that time. Ticket fines start at $65, so hopefully the price for not buckling up will make a lasting impression.

Much more alarming are the statistics from the Colorado Department of Transportation showing that more than half of the 23 people who were killed in traffic crashes during that 14-day period were not wearing seat belts.

Another campaign running concurrently with the seat belt enforcement blitz was the  “2-Second, 2-Week Start the Habit Challenge.”  The campaign challenged Coloradans to take just two seconds to buckle up each time you get in a vehicle.

Don’t let that challenge end with the campaign. Start a lifetime habit that may save your life – and if you already buckle up every time, encourage someone you love to do the same.

Let’s save more lives out there!