Seat Belt Usage On the Rise in Missouri

Oct 5, 2016

A recent survey shows that more Missouri drivers are wearing their seat belts, but deadly crashes have also increased.

Based on Missouri driver and passenger data, seat belt use is up 1.5 percent from last year to 81.4 percent. The national average of seat belt users was 86.7 percent in 2015. As of Sept. 29, more than 660 people were killed in traffic crashes, which is an 8 percent increase compared to this time last year. 

Bill Whitfield, director of the Office of Highway Safety, said the increase in crashes has a lot to do with the economy.

“Our vehicle miles traveled, not only in Missouri but across the nation, have increased. The lower gas prices are enabling individuals to drive more,” Whitfield said.

Whitfield said the reason the number of Missouri drivers using seat belts is lower than the national average is because of Missouri’s secondary safety belt law.

“A law enforcement officer has to see some other type of moving violation such as speeding or failing to stop at a stop sign or some type of an offense like that before they can issue a citation for not wearing the safety belt,” Whitfield said.

He said drivers have the responsibility to prevent crashes by obeying speed limits and using the so called “three second” rule to give drivers time to react.

“When the vehicle in front of you passes a fixed object, such as a utility pole, you really shouldn’t cross that same plane until three seconds have elapsed,” Whitfield said.

Scott Jones, highway safety program administrator for the MoDOT Traffic and Highway Safety Division, said they have funding to focus on keeping drivers safe.

“Since we are lagging well behind the national average, and fatalities and crashes are up, that just drives in the importance that everybody in the vehicle needs to buckle up. Every trip, everyone, every time, day and night,” Jones said.