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Study finds increased seat belt usage in Arkansas, Missouri

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 5:21 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2021 at 5:22 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - A new report shows more are buckling up in Arkansas and Missouri over the past decade.

Quote Wizard published a new report using data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to evaluate seat belt trends in all 50 states. The report states Arkansas increased seat belt usage by 14% since 2012, the third-best among U.S. States. Seat belt usage also increased by 10% in Missouri since 2012. According to the report, seat belt usage in Arkansas and Missouri is around 82% and 88% respectively.

In 2011, Craig Smith was in an accident and thrown from his vehicle.

”(I) took a corner too fast, wasn’t wearing my seat belt, so I had been ejected from the vehicle,” Smith explained. “It caused some internal damage, a little internal bleeding.”

He doesn’t take a day for granted.

”I make sure 100% every time I get in a vehicle, driver or passenger, that I’m wearing my seat belt,” said Smith.

A recent study shows more Arkansas drivers are wearing their seat belts. The state has seen a 14% bump in usage rate, while Missouri has seen a 10% increase.

” It’s good, we’re happy to see it because it saves lives,” said Lt. Michael Toland, head school resource officer with the Harrison Police Department. “We have problems, accidents in our community, and we always see really bad accidents where people have not been wearing their seat belt, it saves their life or keeps them from having been seriously injured.”

The Harrison Police Department says its numbers match that trend, as seat belt violations are down 70% since before the pandemic. It says increase usage has helped, but the pandemic has played a large factor with limited travel in the last year and a half.

”Obviously people were not traveling, a lot of people weren’t going to work so there’s less traffic,” said Harrison Police Chief Chris Graddy. ‘Officers were trying to only make stops that would deal with hazardous violations. You just wanted to limit contact with people as much as possible.”

And despite more buckling up, more than 50% of traffic fatalities involve someone not wearing a seat belt. As traffic increases following the pandemic, Harrison P.D. says it’ll be looking for seat belt violators and distracted drivers.

”Well, we have the highway safety grants where officers volunteer to do overtime for speed enforcement, DWI enforcement, seat belt enforcement, and this week distracted driver enforcement,” said Graddy.

Those enforcement campaigns are underway starting this week in north Arkansas. The main one is “U Drive, U Text, U Pay.” It focuses on enforcing no cell phones in hand while driving through school and work zones.

Click here for more information on the study from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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