EDITORIALS

OUR OPINION: ‘Click It or Ticket’

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Seatbelt compliance by state motorists on Louisiana highways has improved over the years.

These days, three out of four motorists in front seats buckle up, according to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission.

Observational studies performed in June and July of this year for LHSC confirmed that 75 percent of all drivers and front seat passengers were buckled.  That’s a one percent decline from the 2008 rate.

Observers in the survey studies operated from 416 locations and observed 73,785 drivers and front passengers.

Even though Louisiana operates under a “primary enforcement” seat belt law, meaning that officers ticket motorists they see violating the law, buckling up in the state trails the national average, which in 2007 was 82 percent.

Drivers in SUVs are most likely to click it and  buckle up at a rate of 77 percent.

The motorists most likely to be seen not using seatbelts are driving pickup trucks. They’re in compliance only 71 percent of the time.

LHSC believes an increase in compliance among pickup truck drivers would significantly increase the number of highway crash survivors because pickups make up such a large portion of vehicles in Louisiana.

One would not normally associate a decline in seatbelt usage with hurricanes, but Louisiana belt use fell by three points in the year after Katrina and Rita. LHSC believes the one point decline from the 2008 rate could be related to Hurricane Gustav.

According to LHSC, the three geographic areas of the state seeing the biggest compliance declines in the latest survey were all south Louisiana regions impacted by Hurricane Gustav.

Whether the hurricanes caused lower compliance or not, motorists should be aware of the overwhelming statistics in favor of seatbelt usage.

Seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal injury to car passengers by 45 percent and moderate to critical injuries by 50 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Roughly 65 percent of people killed in wrecks in Louisiana in 2008 were not wearing seatbelts.

We’ve improved compliance from 1986 when new seatbelt laws were enacted from 12 percent to 75 percent in 2009, a huge improvement for the benefit of all Louisianans.

Let’s make it better this year by bringing compliance up to the national average of 82 percent.