Connecticut’s 2016 seat belt rate has increased to a record 89.4 percent, up from 85.4 percent in 2015, the state Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office announced this weekend.
“We have been working diligently with our traffic safety partners, including law enforcement, to move the needle, and this increase is significant,” said James Redeker, state commissioner of transportation. “For many years, Connecticut was one of the top compliant states, and after a five-year slide, we’re encouraged to know that more people are buckling up at a higher rate than last year.
"The fact is, seat belts save lives – and can be the difference between life and death in a crash.”
Several factors contributed to the increase, including additional research and a media campaign aimed at reaching motorists and raising awareness not just about the dangers of driving without buckling up, but the fines they would receive if cited.
"It only takes a second to save a life,” added Dora B. Schriro, Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. “Please, make sure everyone's seatbelt is fastened before you get onto the road. It's the best second you'll ever spend."
A seatbelt task force was created with the overall goal of increasing Connecticut’s belt use rate. This group is represented by state and local law enforcement, Preusser Research Data Group, Cashman+Katz Media Consultant, AAA, Department of Public Health, area hospitals and the DOT Highway Safety Office, and is tasked with implementing strategies to reach the goals.
The Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign, which began on May 23, included 129 participating state and local law enforcement agencies. This campaign was a key tool in public awareness and enforcement for safety belt use. Connecticut joined law enforcement agencies across the Eastern half of the United States in mobilizing the Click It or Ticket “Border to Border” Operation.
Law enforcement agencies came together to provide increased seat belt enforcement at State borders, sending a message to the public: driving or riding unbuckled will result in a ticket, no matter what State.
“As chairman of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association Traffic Safety Committee, we are pleased to see such a significant rise in seatbelt compliance in our state,” said Chief John Gavallas, Watertown Police Department. “As a result, many lives will be saved and serious injuries will be prevented.”
In addition, earlier in the year, the Nation’s first Seat Belt Summit was held in Connecticut, which was attended by over 120 individuals from nine states and two territories. These included traffic safety practitioners and advocates from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as contingents from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Representatives from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration, International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association and the Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection also attended. This summit delivered valuable information, as well as an opportunity for law enforcement to exchange ideas, which assisted Connecticut in making changes to ensure that Connecticut’s seat belt usage rate increased.
The Highway Safety Office tried something different during non-CIOT periods. Law enforcement partners increased sustained enforcement, and social norming messaging was used to keep seat belt use awareness in the news.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,580 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2013 were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the crash. And unbelted fatalities are more prevalent at night than during the daytime: 59 percent of those killed in 2013 during the overnight hours of 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m. were unbelted at the time of the crash.
“The goal of the Occupant Protection Program is to increase the observed statewide seat belt use rate and to decrease unrestrained occupant injuries and fatalities,” added Redeker, “Through both education and enforcement, we know that we’ve been able to save lives.”
For more information on the national Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign, please visit www.nhtsa.gov .
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