With summer now upon us — the season of beach trips, picnics and long weekends at vacation spots — the potential for serious motor vehicle crashes is high. So as we prepare for the warm months and increased traffic on Massachusetts’ roadways, we want to stress the importance of wearing your safety belt every time you get into a car.
In Massachusetts, driving or riding without a properly secured safety belt is against the law, and is punishable by a fine for the driver and for each passenger not properly restrained. If you are unbelted, you not only risk a fine, but you also risk your life and the lives of others.
In 2007, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 14,000 people died in passenger vehicle crashes while unbelted. If you are pulled over by a trooper, there is a good chance you are already practicing dangerous, distracted or impaired driving behavior. By not wearing your safety belt, you are only compounding the consequences.
Safety belts have been proven to reduce the risk of a fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and by 60 percent in pickup trucks, SUVs and minivans. Yet despite the fact that it’s against the law, and despite all the evidence that says safety belts can prevent serious injury or death in an automobile crash, more than 30 percent of Massachusetts motorists still fail to buckle up, making our state last in the country in terms of safety belt use.
To further crack down on noncompliance, the Massachusetts State Police and more than 230 local police departments are stepping up enforcement of safety belt use during this spring’s “Click It or Ticket” mobilization, which runs through May 31. As part of the campaign, made possible with grant funding from the state’s Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the NHTSA, state police have issued a zero-tolerance enforcement policy on ticketing for safety belt use. State and local police will be ticketing unbelted vehicle occupants around the clock with thousands of extra enforcement hours on Massachusetts roadways.
Buckling up takes just a few seconds. It’s one of the simplest things you can do to avoid fines and save your life. This message is never out of season, but it is worth noting that at this time of year, with increased traffic congestion, there is an increased risk of being involved in a crash. Whether you are driving alone, with friends, or with your family and children, you must buckle up. It’s the law. And it’s just plain common sense.
Col. Mark F. Delaney
Superintendent, Massachusetts State Police
Regional Administrator, NHTSA