TRENTON — New Jersey’s seat belt usage rate rose for the 15th consecutive year to a record 94.51 percent, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Division of Highway Traffic Safety Acting Director Gary Poedubicky announced today.
An observational survey conducted in late May and early June by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, soon after state’s “Click It or Ticket” seat belt campaign, determined the new rate, which was up from 93.73 percent in 2010.
The 0.78 percent uptick is important. Using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines, this year’s gains in seat belt use will prevent six additional fatalities, 176 serious injuries, 132 minor injuries and 307 non-fatal injuries with a savings of $42 million in crash-related economic costs annually.
The state also made substantial gains in back-seat passenger safety belt use, though those numbers lagged far behind front-seat usage. The survey found that 61 percent of back-seat passengers wore their seat belts, up from 48 percent last year. Adults over the age of 18 were the least likely in the survey to wear their seat belts, buckling up only 35 percent of the time, but that was an increase from 27 percent in 2010.
“In collisions, serious injuries can be caused by unbelted occupants colliding with each other,” Poedubicky said. “People in the front seat can be struck by unbelted rear-seat passengers who become high-speed projectiles in a crash. Making backseat passengers buckle up will help save lives.”
Legislation passed in 2010 made it a secondary offense for adults over the age of 18 to ride unbuckled in the back seat of a motor vehicle. The law allows police to issue a summons and fine of $46 to unrestrained adults in the back seat when the car they are riding in is pulled over for another violation. The state’s primary seat belt law requires all motorists and passengers in the front seat, including passengers under the age of 18, to wear a seat belt or be securely buckled in a car seat, or face a $46 fine. This ticket is issued to the driver.
“The continued increase in seat belt usage is proof that our laws and programs are working, but our goal is 100 percent compliance. Passengers and motorists alike have to continue to consider buckling up a potentially life and death decision and something they should do every time they get in a motor vehicle,” Poedubicky said.
Buckling up is the single most effective way for a motor vehicle occupant to avoid death or serious injury in a crash. It reduces the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and moderate or critical injury by 50 percent.
Eighty-five percent of New Jersey’s police agencies, or 419 of 493, participated the “Click It or Ticket” campaign. The mobilization ran from May 23 to June 5 and resulted in 32,228 seat belt citations, down from 35,671 in 2010.
The state is pointing to the increase in belt usage as the primary reason for the 9 percent decrease in citations. Police officers also wrote 926 child restraint and 5,865 speeding citations, and made 953 DWI arrests.
“Every state trooper has seen the results of people killed because they were not wearing their seat belts,” said Major Lou Klock, Deputy Superintendent of Operations for the New Jersey State Police. “If we could share those bad memories with the last few holdouts refusing to comply with the law, they would immediately buckle up.”
Somerset (97.39 percent) and Union (95.92 percent) counties posted the highest seat belt usage rates, while Passaic County saw the biggest year-to-year upturn, rising 5.4 percent, from 90.1 percent in 2010 to 95.52 percent this year.
A town-by-town breakdown of the citations issued during the “Click It or Ticket” campaign and other related statistics are available on the Division’s web site at http://www.nj.gov/oag/hts/downloads/ciot-mobilization-rpt-11-web.pdf.
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