It’s been three months since a primary-offense seat belt law went into effect.
And how are Marion County drivers doing?
It could be better.
Failure to wear a seat belt has been against the law since 1993, but for the past three months, it’s been classified as a primary offense. An officer could pull you over for speeding or some other moving violation and cite you for not wearing a seat belt. But they couldn’t pull you over solely for the offense.
Despite years of “Click it or Ticket” promotions and the change to a primary offense, we noticed that there are people who still drive unbelted. We noticed it, but we wanted a little hard data to show just how many people were driving without wearing their seat belts.
Like a similar study we completed in July concerning talking on cellphones, we sent our reporters to the streets to do a little investigative journalism on the seat belt issue. We identified four busy intersections in the county and asked each reporter to carefully observe traffic in one lane for a one-hour period, count the number of cars that passed and make a notation of each “unbelted” driver.
Scientific? Probably not. But we believe it gives a good sample to start from.
During the morning rush hour, a reporter was stationed at Water and Buffalo streets in Mannington. Of the 115 drivers who passed by, 22 of them, or 19 percent, were not wearing their seat belts.
At lunchtime, a reporter watched the intersection of Locust Avenue and Fourth Street in Fairmont. Out of the 223 drivers who passed our reporter, 35 of them were not belted, about 16 percent.
The East Side fared about the same 16 percent during the evening rush hour. The reporter counted 561 cars that passed by, with 91 drivers not wearing seat belts at the intersection of Morgantown and East Park avenues.
White Hall drivers had the best record with 14 percent of drivers not wearing seat belts during the evening rush hour at the intersection of U.S. 250 and the access road to Walmart. Out of the 350 cars that passed, 50 drivers were not belted.
We were attempting to get a good blend of the county at different times of the day. If the reporter could not immediately identify whether a driver was wearing a belt, the car was not counted. There were not that many of those cases.
We did not want to point out winners or losers when it came to a particular area of the county, and a plus or minus 5 percent difference is a respectable margin for even a nationwide survey.
What we did find out was that, by far, it was male drivers who overwhelmingly were not wearing seat belts during our survey — between 75 and 91 percent depending on the area. Of course, there were no follow-up questions about why drivers chose to or chose not to wear their seat belts, but we found it extremely interesting the lopsided amount of men who went without them versus female drivers.
Being cited for not wearing a seat belt carries a $25 fine, though no additional court costs will be added, nor will any points be put on the driver’s record. We know that’s a nominal charge for the offense.
But aside from the $25 fine, there are numbers much greater that should make drivers stop and think. There are about 400,000 deaths from vehicle accidents per year, and experts say that half of those deaths could be prevented if seat belts were worn. A seat belt prevents the “human collision” during an accident, meaning that it protects a driver from hitting the steering wheel, the dashboard or the windshield, which can cause life-threatening or fatal head injuries.
Every reason that’s thrown out there for not wearing a seat belt has been scientifically proven untrue.
But one fact remains. Wearing your seat belt saves lives.
Buckle up, Marion County.
It’s been three months since a primary-offense seat belt law went into effect.
Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life
Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.
COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?
Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.
Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions
This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year
It’s happening again.
It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.
County honors men who gave all in helping their community
The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.
State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less
The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
Let’s not do that again.
Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past
Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.
COLUMN: Who would leave animal in sweltering car?
I was standing and debating between two brands of a product in a big box store when I heard a call over the intercom:
“Will the owner of a green Cavalier with a dog inside please report to the lawn and garden center.”
I shook my head. I hate seeing dogs in cars waiting while their owners shop. About five minutes later, there was another announcement over the intercom.
We must take all weather emergency alerts seriously
In a weather emergency, every second counts.
Think back to the derecho that devastated the state just two years ago. The powerful wind storm caused nearly 700,000 people in West Virginia to lose electricity, some who didn’t have power restored for weeks. A state of emergency was declared, and all but two of the state’s 55 counties sustained some damage or loss of power.
Adult Drug Court helps reduce rate of addicted infants born in the state
Drugs ruin lives.
And they don’t ruin just the lives of the people who make a conscious decision to try them and get slowly sucked into a life of addiction, where all thoughts and actions are dictated by the next fix.
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