More Wyomingites are buckling up
by Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT)
October 15, 2007
WYDOT's 2007 seat-belt-use survey observed 70 percent of Wyoming drivers and front-seat passengers buckled up, an increase of nearly 12 percentage points or 20 percent from the rate observed in 2006.
However, despite the significant improvement, Wyoming's seat-belt-use rate remains below the national rate of 81 percent, and nearly two-thirds of the people killed on the state's roads last year were not buckled up.
The Wyoming seat-belt-use rate was recorded during a visual survey of more than 22,000 vehicles at 207 sites in nine counties during June. The survey is funded annually by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through WYDOT's Highway Safety Program. The large number of vehicles observed gives the statewide survey results a standard error of plus or minus 1 percent.
Seventy-seven percent of the vehicles observed had Wyoming license plates, and 70 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers in those vehicles were buckled up. In vehicles with out-of-state plates, 83 percent of the occupants were buckled up. When observations for in-state and out-of-state vehicles were combined, the overall seat-belt-use rate was 72 percent, up nearly 9 percentage points or 14 percent from last year's survey.
"It's very gratifying to see seat-belt use in Wyoming increasing, because buckling up is the simplest and most effective thing anyone can do to improve their chances of escaping injury or death if they are involved in a crash," said Matt Carlson, WYDOT's state highway safety engineer. "But if 70 percent of Wyoming motorists are buckling up, that means 30 percent still are not safely restrained. We'll continue to work to raise awareness and encourage all motorists to buckle up."
Wyoming law requires drivers and passengers to be properly restrained in seat belts or child safety seats. The fine for any unbelted or improperly belted driver is $25, and for each passenger it is $10. The penalty for not properly restraining a child is $50 for a first offense and $100 for a second.
Teton County had the highest observed seat-belt-use rate in the state at 97 percent, an increase of 23 percentage points over the rate observed last year. Significant increases also were recorded in Albany, Natrona and Sheridan counties, which were among the counties WYDOT's Highway Safety Program targeted with media campaigns encouraging seat-belt use. The campaigns used television, radio and newspapers, and were targeted primarily at male pickup drivers ages 18-34, because they have had the lowest belt-usage rate.
"Having sustained seat belt campaigns in targeted counties throughout the year has demonstrated to have a positive impact on the statewide usage rate, " said Dee West Peterson, highway safety grants coordinator. "The campaigns focused on law enforcement, community and media. The target counties were selected by combining three criteria: high fatality rates, low seat belt usage and population base."
Another possible contributing factor to the higher belt use was increased law enforcement presence on the highways in June, made possible by safety grants allowing officers to work overtime during peak travel periods.
Pickups accounted for nearly one-third of all the vehicles observed statewide, and 63 percent of drivers and passengers in them were buckled up. That's an increase from the 52 percent observed in 2006, but still the lowest usage rate of all the vehicle types surveyed. Motorists in vans had the highest usage rate at nearly 81 percent, followed by sport utility vehicles at 79 percent and passenger cars at 74 percent.
The overall belt-use rate was lower in counties where pickups made up a higher percentage of the vehicles observed. Campbell County, with one of the highest percentages of pickups, had the lowest overall belt use at 49 percent, down from 57 percent in 2006. The belt-use rate for drivers and passengers in pickups in Campbell County was only 40 percent.
"The lower rates of seat-belt use for occupants of pickup trucks, combined with the dominance of males for pickup truck observations, and the high proportion of pickup trucks, seemed to have a pronounced effect on overall seat-belt use for Wyoming," the survey report says.
The survey also found that women (81 percent) were more likely to buckle up than men (66 percent), passengers (77 percent) were more likely to buckle up than drivers (71 percent), and motorists driving in rural areas (79 percent) were more likely to buckle up than those in urban areas (71 percent).
Overall seat-belt-use rates found in the counties where observations were made were:
- Albany, 81 percent;
- Campbell, 49 percent;
- Goshen, 59 percent;
- Laramie, 83 percent;
- Natrona, 65 percent;
- Park, 69 percent;
- Sheridan, 75 percent;
- Teton, 97 percent.