The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has announced that Virginia’s seat belt use rate has reached a record high of 85.3 percent. However, as 236 unbelted motorists have died in crashes this year in the Commonwealth, DMV, Virginia law enforcement and nonprofit partners continue their efforts toward 100 percent compliance.
“Virginia’s seat belt use rate has averaged around 79 percent, so anytime we see that number go up, it’s a great thing,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “But, as long as Virginians continue to lose their lives because they aren’t wearing their seat belt, our work is not yet complete.”
In recent years, more than half of the people who died in Virginia crashes in vehicles equipped with safety restraints weren’t using them. In 2016, 304 unrestrained drivers or passengers were killed in Virginia crashes. There were 310 unrestrained fatalities in 2015; in 2014, there were 256.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belt users are 45 percent less likely to be fatally injured in a crash. In addition, statistics show that 80 percent of people ejected in a crash die; 30 percent of unbelted motorists are ejected during a crash.
NHTSA studies show that drivers and front-seat passengers are five times more likely to die in a crash if the rear passengers are not wearing seat belts, and this is particularly the case in head-on collisions.
According to NHTSA, child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury for infants by 71 percent in passenger cars. For toddlers, the risk is reduced by 54 percent.
“There are two simple things you can do to help Virginia reach a new record high seat belt use rate next year: Always buckle up and make sure everyone in your vehicle is properly secured,” Commissioner Holcomb said. “It only takes a second, and it very well may save your life or the life of someone you love.”