New Study Shows Importance of Seat Belts, Nationally and for West Virginia

The Associated Press published an article yesterday, a copy of which appeared in the hard copy of the Register-Herald:

More than two-thirds of young drivers and passengers killed in nighttime car crashes aren’t wearing seat belts — deadly proof of what can happen when young people don’t heed parents’ pleas and authorities’ threats to “click it.”

Though seat-belt use actually is rising slightly nationwide, fatality figures published Monday offered a somber contrast as law enforcement launched its annual pre-Memorial Day drive to persuade Americans to buckle up.

Total belt use rose to 82 percent last year — from 81 percent in 2006 — the government said. Twelve states had rates of 90 percent or better, led by Hawaii and Washington. Only three were below 70 percent: Arkansas, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. West Virginia was ranked between 85% and 90%, which is well above the national average of 82%. But the study was hardly encouraging.

Sixty-eight percent of drivers and passengers between the ages of 16 and 20 who were killed in car crashes at night in 2006 were unbuckled, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. During daytime, 57 percent of the young motorists and passengers who were killed were not wearing seat belts.

The problem isn’t just with teens. The percentage of unbuckled drivers and passengers who died at night is well up in the 60s through the age of 44. It declines to 52 percent for people 55-64 and 41 percent for those older than that.

The problem still remains however, that when you combine carloads of teens, with inexperience and poor judgment, the result is often disastrous, especially in West Virginia with our winding roads. I am reminded of a car wreck that took place on the border of Monroe County and Greenbrier County not too long ago, where a car load of teenagers were killed as the result of excessive speed, poor vehicle maintenance, and unbuckled seat belts.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.

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