LOCAL

LHSC reports seat belt use on the rise

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

BATON ROUGE Seat belt use among Louisiana motorists jumped more than three percentage points to 82.5 percent in 2013, the largest one-year increase in more than a decade.

"This is great news that we hope will help save lives and reduce the number and severity of injuries from crashes on Louisiana's highways and streets," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "Buckling up every time you drive or ride in a vehicle is one of the most simple and effective steps you can take on a daily basis to remain safe."

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission conducts annual observational surveys to estimate how many motorists are buckling up. Last year's survey showed 79.3 percent of drivers and front seat passengers were buckled up. The 2013 increase is the most significant single-year jump since 2003, when a hike of five percentage points was recorded. Safety officials attribute much of the improvement in the past decade to Click It or Ticket, a nationwide enforcement and public information campaign that began in Louisiana in 2003.

Last year, 56 percent of people killed in Louisiana crashes were not wearing seat belts, a significant reduction from 62 percent in 2011.

In 2009, the Louisiana Legislature expanded Louisiana's seat belt law to include back-seat passengers. The 2013 observational survey estimated that 53 percent of rear-seat passengers were buckled up.

The survey also found that female motorists buckle up at higher rates than males and seat-belt use by whites is higher than among black and Hispanic motorists. Motorists on interstates also buckled up at higher rates than those on U.S., state and local roads.

Seat belt use in Louisiana has traditionally lagged behind the national average, which was estimated at 86 percent in 2012.