CHARLESTON, WV – The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) announced that West Virginia’s statewide safety belt usage rate has reached an all-time record of 90.53 percent. The national safety belt usage average is 90 percent.
“The safety, health and well-being of our motorists is clearly a priority,” said Gov. Jim Justice. “This is great news that use of seatbelts by West Virginians has reached an all-time high of more than 90 percent and it should be our goal to reach 100 percent. Safety belts save lives and we need to continue the good work that has been done through my Highway Safety Program to do everything we can to promote safety belt usage.”
The safety belt usage rate has increased considerably over the past five years, which affirms that WV GHSP and its traffic safety partners are providing effective occupant protection programs to the citizens of West Virginia. The GHSP’s educational efforts, Click It or Ticket campaigns, and high visibility enforcement have helped to increase West Virginia’s safety belt usage rates. The previous record for West Virginia safety belt compliance was 89.7 percent in 2017.
To conduct the study, observations were randomly scheduled for all days of the week during daylight hours between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Observers recorded information on vehicle type, driver gender, safety belt use, and cell phone use. They also recorded information on passenger belt use when a passenger was present in the front seat of the vehicle. An independent consulting firm has certified the results, ensuring their accuracy and objectivity.
“We have come a long way when it comes to our seat belt usage rate. When I began working for the GHSP, West Virginia’s rate was the worst in the country,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director. “With the passage of the primary safety belt law in 2013, we have seen significant improvements in several highway safety performance measures.”
West Virginia’s first statewide safety belt survey as required by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was completed in 1998 with a usage rate of 56.5 percent. An annual survey has been conducted every year since. West Virginia’s statewide safety belt use rate has continued to trend upward every year since the implementation of a primary safety belt law in 2013. In addition, the number of fatalities in crashes on West Virginia roadways has trended downward since the primary safety belt law went into effect.
“The number of fatalities on West Virginia roadways has decreased from 432 in 2007 to 268 in 2015. The number of drivers and passengers who are ejected from a vehicle during crash has decreased as well. West Virginians are getting the message: seat belts save lives,” continued Tipton.
Research has shown that lap and shoulder combination safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent when used, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent (NHTSA, 2011).
For more information about safety belts, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/seat-belts. For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.dmv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.