Based on a recent survey commissioned by the Kansas Department of Transportation, local motorists deserve a little pat on the back.
The survey, released earlier this month, indicated that 95 percent of youngsters (from birth to 17 years old) riding in vehicles in Douglas County were properly buckled up. That was the highest percentage registered in the state, followed by Johnson County, with 92 percent. Bringing up the rear was Neosho County with just 58 percent of children buckled up. Data for the survey was collected at 398 locations across the state by observers who watched traffic and recorded seat-belt usage.
The percentage of children and teens wearing seat belts is an important statistic because it reflects the number of adults also using seat belts. The lead researcher on the KDOT study said that 95 percent of children were wearing seat belts when the driver of the vehicle also was buckled up. When the driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt, that number dropped to 30 percent.
Kansas as a whole has made big strides in seat-belt usage since new, tougher laws were passed. Ten years ago, only 63 percent of Kansans used their seat belts; now the overall rate has increased to nearly 85 percent.
Perhaps the most significant change was legislation that made not wearing a seat belt a primary offense, meaning that motorists can be stopped and ticketed by a law enforcement officer solely because they weren’t buckled up. Before, such tickets could be issued only if a motorist was stopped for another offense. Particularly gratifying in the recent report was a large increase in seat-belt usage among teenagers from 15 to 17 years old.
For people who still don’t bother to buckle up, the KDOT researchers have one more statistic that may be of interest: Drivers or passengers are seven times more likely to walk away from a traffic accident if they are wearing their seat belts.
It’s the law, and it’s a life-saver. What more reason should anyone need to buckle up?