The Times West Virginian

Opinion

July 10, 2013

Wearing seat belts effective, simple measure that saves lives

Click it or ticket.

For years, those words have been synonymous with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s campaign designed to increase the use of seat belts. The message is simple: If you’re pulled over while driving and don’t have your seat belt on, you will be cited.

In the past five years alone, the annual two-week “Click It or Ticket” crackdown has resulted in more than 3 million seat belt citations nationwide. As the NHTSA explains, that’s a ticket every other second.

The message is even more important now that driving without wearing a seat belt is a primary offense in West Virginia.

The new law, which took effect Tuesday, ultimately will help keep people safe. West Virginia joins 32 other states that make seat belts a primary-offense law, which means police officers won’t need to detect any other moving violation to issue a ticket for non-compliance with the seat belt law.

It also comes on the heels of another new law designed to curb distracted driving. That law — prohibiting the use of any handheld devices while driving in West Virginia — took effect last week, one year after texting behind the wheel became a primary offense in the state.

Buckle up. No talking on your cellphone. No texting.

These three laws can go a long way in keeping countless West Virginia drivers safe every day.

And let’s face it — clicking a seat belt into place should be one of the first things drivers do when they get behind the wheel. Just as important as adjusting mirrors and tucking away your cellphone, wearing seat belts is a vital step toward keeping drivers safe.

That’s not just our opinion. The National Safety Council reports that seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives from 2004 to 2008.

Sadly, even though seat belt use averages 88 percent nationally, there are still groups less likely to wear seat belts: teens, commercial drivers, males in rural areas, pickup truck drivers, people driving at night and people who have been drinking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says adult seat belt use is the most effective way to save lives, and seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about 50 percent.

What’s especially troubling is that the CDC says adults who live in rural areas are 10 percent less likely to wear seat belts than adults who live in urban and suburban areas. In addition, seat belt use is lower in states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws or no seat belt laws compared to states with primary enforcement laws.

Wearing seat belts is an effective — and simple — way to save lives. And now that you can be cited for not wearing a seat belt while driving, the extra second or two it takes to click it into place when you get behind the wheel could save you a few extra bucks as well.

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