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Seat Belts Could Have Prevented 2,456 Deaths in Car Accidents: NHTSA

Federal highway safety officials have launched their annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign, which is designed to increase enforcement of seat belt laws nationwide, and raise awareness about the increased risks associated with riding in motor vehicles without proper restraints.

In a recently released seatbelt safety report, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that there were 10,428 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in car accidents in 2016, indicating that many of these lives could have been saved if all passengers over the age of 5 had been wearing seatbelts.

The agency’s annual Click It or Ticket” campaign will run from May 21 through June 3, including national advertisements that promote the use of seatbelts, and warn about heightened law enforcement efforts.

The campaign has proven to be effective in recent years, with recent data showing steady increase in seat belt use on U.S. roadways, reaching an all-time high of 88.5 percent in 2014. However, the NHTSA indicates that more still can be done to save lives.

Although the agency projects that seat belts saved an estimated 15,000 lives in 2016, crash data indicates if all of the passenger vehicle occupants over five years of age had been wearing their seat belts, an additional 2,456 lives could have been saved.

Officials are warning travelers that just because you are in a larger vehicle, that does not make you any safer. Data from 2016 showed 61 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed were not buckled up, compared to 42 percent of unbuckled passengers of normal size cars.

Back seat passengers should always wear seat belts. NHTSA research shows 47 percent of all front seat passenger occupants killed in crashes in 2016 were unrestrained, and 57 percent of those killed in the backseats were not buckled. Any non-restrained passenger faces potentially life threatening injuries in the event of a crash, however individuals in the front seats face fatal ejection risks.

NHTSA data has seen a trend that individuals driving in rural areas may be less inclined to wear seatbelts due to a false belief that their crash exposure is low. However, 2016 data indicates 13,732 passenger vehicle fatalities were recorded in rural locations, compared to 9,366 fatalities in urban communities. Forty-nine percent of the passengers in rural areas were not wearing seatbelts.

The Department of Transportation’s campaign will consist of over 10,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide participating in a zero tolerance policy for unbelted drivers and occupants to prevent crash fatalities. This year’s campaign will also include a new television ad targeting 18 to 34 year old males who accounted for 44% of the unrestrained vehicle fatalities in 2016.

NHTSA Transportation Secretary, Elaine L. Chao, said in the release “Safety is our top priority, and this department is proud to stand with the local law enforcement officials to help spread the word about the importance of buckling up.”

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