Buckle up: Seat restraints most effective safety feature in a vehicle

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pike County roadways claimed five lives in 2013. For Alabama Department of Transportation Director John Cooper, that’s five too many.

“Our goal for the New Year is to decrease the number of crashes and fatalities, promote more seat belt use and work toward zero deaths on Alabama’s highways,” he said.

According to the DOT, Pike County had four deaths in 2012 and eight in 2011.

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“It has fluctuated up and down throughout the last five years but not dramatically,” said Rebecca Leigh White of the ALDOT.

The DOT looks at yearend statistics to form its annual campaigns. White said this year’s campaign would address young adults through social media, billboards, campus tours and sporting events.

In 2012, 95 people ages 21 to 25 were killed in motor vehicle wrecks statewide, she said.

The DOT issued statewide crash activity reports this week. It identified one issue for this year’s campaign: the use of seat restraints.

According to the data collected by Alabama State Troopers, the number of victims who died in vehicle crashes where seat belts were available and were not wearing seat belts decreased from November to December. However, the total number of victims not wearing seat restraints in 2013 increased from 2012.

White said the statistics on seat restraints include the use of child seats.

“Forty-one percent of fatalities in 2012 did not use restraints. So, out of the 870 people killed in 813 crashes, 364 of those killed did not use a seat belt or safety restraint,” White said.

Data from traffic crashes investigated by state troopers indicates 59 percent of all victims killed in 2012 were not wearing seat belts at the time of their deaths.

According to preliminary traffic crash data, there were 40 victims killed in vehicle crashes investigated by Alabama State Troopers in December 2013, down from 52 in November. Of the December number, 36 were in vehicles where seat belts were available, and 19 victims were not wearing seat belts, down from 31 in November.

The latest information from DPS shows 515 victims were killed in 2013, a decrease of one from the same time period in 2012. However, of the 515 crash victims this year, 432 were in vehicles where seat belts were available, but 257 victims were not restrained.

“Seat belts (and child restraints) are the most effective safety feature in a motor vehicle and help to save hundreds of lives each year,” said Col. Hugh B. McCall, director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety and the state’s highest-ranking trooper.

“In Alabama, using seat belts and child restraints is not an option. It’s the law.”

For additional information, visit www.dot.state.al.us or www.dps.alabama.gov.