Local law enforcement, health department stress importance of seatbelts

Patrol commander: ‘Wearing your safety belt is one of the simplest things you can do to save your life.’

The Clark County Combined Health District partnered with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Clark County Safe Communities Coalition and local law enforcement to launch its annual Click it or Ticket effort, which encourages anyone in a car to wear a seatbelt.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Springfield post Lt. Christina Hayes said that wearing a seatbelt is one of the simplest things a person can do to protect themselves in a car.

In 2023, there were 1,242 fatal crashes in the state, with 472 involving unbuckled occupants or drivers, Hayes said.

So far this year, six Clark Countians who weren’t wearing their seatbelts died in crashes.

“Wearing your safety belt is one of the simplest things you can do to save your life, your family’s life, or other occupants in a vehicle,” Hayes said.

The national seat belt campaign runs from May 22 to June 4, coinciding with Memorial Day.

Currently, police cannot pull a driver over for not buckling up. Right now, they must pull drivers over for another violation before writing a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt.

A newly introduced bill aims to change that and make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense.

Hayes said if this becomes a primary violation, that would allow law enforcement to pull drivers over just for not wearing a seatbelt.

Paul Humphries, Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) liaison, said the office has heard arguments that whether or not a driver wears a seatbelt is their choice.

“Well your choice has such an impact on other people; none of these officers here want to stop up at your house to tell your family that you’re not going to come home tonight because you simply failed to wear your seatbelt,” Humphries said.

Humphries said drivers should take into account the fact that even if they are following every law and driving safely, other drivers may cause crashes, and a seatbelt increases the chances of survival and reduces the risk of serious injury.

Seatbelt use in Ohio was at 80.8% in 2022, which is the lowest compliance rate since 2005. Humphries said the OTSO is working with the University of Akron on seatbelt surveys and increase seatbelt use.

Buckling up takes seconds, as law enforcement and Health Commissioner Chris Cook demonstrated during a quick-click challenge where they completed a seatbelt relay.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

About the Author