Louisiana seat-belt use jumps to record high 84.1 percent

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

BATON ROUGE––Louisiana motorists are buckling up at record high rates in 2014, but safety officials point out that more work needs to be done to convince male, some minority and pickup truck drivers and passengers to always wear their seat belts.

The state’s annual survey of seat-belt use estimated that 84.1 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers were buckled up in 2014, up 1.6 percentage points from last year’s rate of 82.5 percent. Despite a series of back-to-back annual increases, males, African-Americans and pickup truck occupants lagged behind in buckling up—in some cases considerably below state averages for all drivers and front-seat occupants.

For example, 89.2 percent of female drivers and front-seat occupants were observed wearing seat belts, while only 79.2 percent of male drivers and front-seat occupants buckled up—a difference of 10 percentage points. The survey found that only 78.5 percent of pickup truck drivers and front-seat passengers were buckled up, compared to 88.7 percent of those in vans, 86.8 percent of those in SUVs and 85.5 percent of those in cars. The survey also found that African-American drivers and front-seat passengers buckled up at rates below their white counterparts, but Hispanics used seat belts at rates higher than both whites and African-Americans.

“The 2014 survey verifies that we are on the right track in our work to save lives by increasing seat-belt use,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “On the other hand, the survey pinpoints specific areas where there remains room for substantial improvements.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission have for years recognized that certain groups of motorists fall behind in seat belt use. For that reason, specific education campaigns have been designed and executed to reach out to those groups—especially pickup truck drivers and occupants. In general, some male drivers—especially young ones—are more prone to engage in risky driving behaviors, which could account for their lower seat belt use.