Seat belt use in Ohio falls to lowest level in 18 years, survey shows

Seat belt use in Ohio has dropped to its lowest level in nearly two decades.

A survey conducted by the Ohio Traffic Safety Office, a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, shows the statewide seat belt compliance rate dropped from 84.1% in 2021 to 80.8% in 2022 — the lowest rate since 2005.

“We want seat belt use to be an automatic habit for drivers and passengers alike,” said Emily Davidson, OTSO director. “Unrestrained deaths are completely preventable. Buckling up is the simplest thing you can do to limit injury or save your life during a crash.”

Ohio remains below the national seat belt use rate of 91.6%.

In 2022, there were 527 people in Ohio killed in traffic crashes where a seat belt was available, but not in use. This marked the third consecutive year that Ohio’s unbelted fatality rate was above 60%.

“Properly wearing a safety belt saves lives and reduces the risk of injuries,” said Col. Charles A. Jones, superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “When a safety belt is properly worn, the potential for crash-related injuries and death decreases dramatically.”

The state’s new seat belt survey also found that trucks had the lowest compliance rates of any vehicle type: 76.3% for heavy trucks and 77.7% for light trucks. Also, local roads had by far the lowest rate of compliance in the state compared to interstates and state highways.

The Ohio highway patrol is among law enforcement agencies throughout the state and country participating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Click It or Ticket enforcement effort.

The seat belt campaign, which coincides with the Memorial Day holiday, runs through June 4.

“Too many times our troopers see tragic loss of life on our roadways due to irresponsible decisions,” said Jones. “Before heading out, make a plan, designate a sober driver and buckle up.”

In 2021, there were 11,813 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the U.S. In those crashes, 57% of those not wearing their seat belts were killed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Police agencies participating in the seat belt campaign will take a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, with an extra focus at night, according to the traffic safety office.

In Ohio, all drivers, front seat passengers and children and teens ages 8 and 15 must wear a seat belt. Children younger than 8 must ride in a booster seat or appropriate safety seat unless the child is 4 feet, 9 inches or taller.

Breaking the Ohio seat belt law will result in a $30 fine for the driver, plus $20 for a passenger.

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