The Times West Virginian

Opinion

April 12, 2013

Click it or ticket: W.Va. drivers will have to buckle up

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 these days, tucking away your cellphone so it’s not a distraction — 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.

But here in West Virginia, drivers who choose not to buckle up could soon find themselves being pulled over and facing a fine now that the state Senate and House of Delegates have approved a bill that would make driving without wearing a seat belt a primary offense.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature, and the governor, who referred to the bill as a safety issue, said he “probably will end up signing it.”

“Obviously, it’s a safety issue,” he said. “It’s what we need to do, what we can to keep our traveling public safe.”

Under a primary offense law, police officers won’t need to detect any other moving violation to issue a ticket for non-compliance with the seat belt law, which is currently only a secondary offense.

And if Tomblin does sign the bill, West Virginia would join 32 other states that make seat belts a primary law.

Among those voting for the bill’s approval, Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, recalled instances in his four terms as sheriff how failure to use seat belts resulted in a highway tragedy.

“It’s always very tragic when you see something as simple as a seat belt could perhaps have meant the difference between saving a life or not,” the Senate majority whip said. “I’ve been supportive of primary offense for quite some time. I’ve had real-world experience as it relates to the value of seat belt safety.

“This is a solid step in the right direction as it relates to highway safety in the state,” Laird added.

That solid step is just the latest step of many made toward keeping drivers safe.

Last summer, texting became a primary offense. This year, any use of handheld devices while behind the wheel will be enough of a reason for a law-enforcement officer to stop a driver.

If Tomblin does sign the seat belt bill — which he indicated he would — it will become law within 90 days of Wednesday’s passage.

And if the law helps save just one life or keeps just one family from experiencing a tragedy like the ones so many law-enforcement officers have seen over the years, it will be worth it.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • 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.

    July 20, 2014

  • 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.

    July 20, 2014

  • 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.

    July 18, 2014

  • 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.

    July 17, 2014

  • 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.

    July 16, 2014

  • 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.

    July 15, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads