West Virginia Ranked 45th in Seat Belt Use Improvement

FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va (WOAY) – According to a study done by Lending Tree with help from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, West Virginia has the fifth-lowest rate of improvement in seat belt usage. 

The NHTSA data from 2017 says that only 49.3% of people in West Virginia were wearing a seatbelt at the time of a fatal accident. While this is a 6% increase compared to the results from 2000, it is still one of the lowest in the country. 

“There’s been a lot of statistics ran for people wearing seatbelts and not wearing seatbelts. The higher percentage of those who wear seatbelts made it through the wreck,” Fayette County Deputy Sheriff Rod Perdue said. 

With this low rate of seat belt usage, there is also cause for concern about children in car seats.

“In 2017, over 600 children died as passengers in vehicles, and it’s very important to keep children in car seats that protect them,” Raleigh General Hospital’s Assistant CNO Daniel Shelford said. “In children less than 3, it decreases their risk of death by 75%.” 

State laws require that all children up to the age of eight must be in federally approved car seats. Regardless of age, state laws require that everyone must be buckled in while in a car. Even with the statistics and the dangers, there are still people who choose not to buckle up.

“A lot of them’s uncomfortable. They say they’re uncomfortable. They don’t like being restrained,” Perdue said. 

 Medical professionals say some are skeptical about what the seatbelt can do to the body in an accident. 

“I think there’s a myth that wearing a seatbelt can cause injury and yes, it can to some degree,” Shelford said. “As a nurse who has worked in emergency nursing for a number of years across the board, I’ve seen some slight mild burns from airbags. I’ve seen some marks go across folks’ chests from seat belts, but I can tell you that ejection from a vehicle during a car accident or even a rollover can cause much more injury or fatality.”

Local fire departments and the local Department of Health and Human Services can all inspect car seats to make sure they’re up to code. Click here for the results of the full study on seat belt usage.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.