By MELINDA WILLIAMS
In an effort to reduce the number of unrestrained motorists killed in wrecks, Pulaski Police Department is joining other law enforcement over the next couple of weeks looking for seat belt violators.
According to Pulaski Police Department Officer Megan Jennings, a motorist’s body becomes a missile inside a vehicle during a wreck when a seatbelt isn’t used. Therefore, Pulaski police and Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ Highway Safety Office encourages everyone to buckle up “during every trip, day and night.”
As part of the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign, which runs through June 1, Pulaski police officers and other law enforcement across Virginia and the nation will be out in full force looking for seatbelt violators, both day and night.
“If you’re not buckled up, you will get a ticket,” warned Jennings. “Don’t risk death or injuring others in your vehicle. If you’re driving, the second action you need to take after fastening your own seatbelt is to insist all your passengers are wearing their belts too.”
In 2012, 61 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed nationwide at night, from 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., were not wearing seatbelts.
“Local law enforcement officers are actually trained to spot seatbelt violations at night, so just because it’s dark, don’t think they won’t be able to spot unbelted drivers,” Jennings said.
Virginia’s statewide seatbelt use rate was 79.7 percent in 2013 and 78.4 percent in 2012. Last year in Virginia, 54 percent of all traffic fatalities, or 310 deaths, were unrestrained drivers and passengers. Thirty-eight percent of the unrestrained deaths were young people between the ages of 21 and 35, and 73 percent were males.
Most unrestrained fatalities, 46 percent, occurred between the hours of 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. and 24 percent of the unbelted driver fatalities had been drinking. Drivers (75.7 percent) and passengers (68.8 percent) in pickup trucks had the lowest seatbelt use rates, along with passengers (69.4 percent) in work vans.
“These numbers tell us young males, many of them pickup drivers who’ve been drinking, are not buckling up and dying on our roadways,” said Jennings “We want to do everything we can to reach these people and save their lives.”
She said the size of pickup trucks may provide pickup drivers and passengers with a false sense of security or protection. “Everyone, no matter what vehicle they are in or if they are a driver or passenger, should always buckle up,” she said.