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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Thursday, September 8, 2011
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Seat Belt Use Climbs in Virginia Compared to Last Year
2011 Use Rate is Second Highest Ever

RICHMOND - More Virginians are buckling up now compared to last year. Virginia recorded the second highest ever seat belt use rate this year at 81.8 percent.

The 2010 Virginia seat belt use rate was 80.5 percent and the 2009 was the highest ever recorded at 82.3 percent. The seat belt use rate was 80.2 percent in 2008, 79.9 percent in 2007, 78.6 percent in 2006 and 80.4 percent in 2005. Seat belt use rates are based on surveys conducted by Old Dominion University of thousands of vehicle occupants.

"Seat belts are your best defense during a crash," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor's Highway Safety Representative. "A crash is always a surprise, so you don't have to time to prepare or to put on your safety belt at that point. Play it safe and always buckle up, every time."

Of the 448 traffic fatalities so far in 2011, 194 of those who died were not wearing a seat belt.

Preliminary data indicates the number of traffic deaths for 2011 are about the same compared to last year. As of September 6, there were 504 road deaths so far in 2011, compared to 505 for this same time period in 2010. There were 740 traffic fatalities in Virginia last year, the lowest number in one year since traffic deaths began being recorded in 1966.

To continue preventing fatalities, it is estimated motorists wearing seat belts are 40 percent less likely to be fatally injured during a crash. In other words, by not wearing a safety belt, statistics show motorists are five times more likely to be killed in a crash and three times more likely to sustain serious injuries.

More facts about seat belts

  • Medical costs resulting from traffic crashes are twice as costly for occupants who are not belted.
  • An insured driver who routinely wears a seat belt pays higher premiums each year to cover crash-related medical expenses for those who do not wear seat belts.
  • When a driver is buckled with a seat belt, children are likely to be buckled 87 percent of the time.
  • Airbags do not replace the need for seat belts. When used with seat belts, airbags further reduce the risk of death or injury in the event of a crash.
  • The lap belt should fit low and snug across the hips, never across the abdomen.
  • The shoulder harness should fit closely against the chest, never under the arm.

As the Commonwealth invests nearly $4 billion into the state's transportation network over the next three years, motorists will routinely encounter road construction in every region of the state. As Virginia does its part for highway safety, DMV urges drivers to do yours - buckle up, slow down, and be alert and patient while driving through road construction.

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