Montana earns C grade in seat belt laws

WASHINGTON - Advocates of tougher seat belt laws give more than a third of the states a below-average grade for their efforts to protect against highway deaths.

The report by the National Safety Council kicks off a nationwide police crackdown on drivers who don't wear seat belts and don't buckle up kids. More than 10,000 U.S. law enforcement agencies, including at least 18 in Montana, will have checkpoints and increased patrols this week and lasting through Memorial Day.

"It's a combination of public education and enforcement," Lt. Col. Shawn T. Driscoll, deputy chief of the Montana Highway Patrol, said Monday. "There will be a heightened effort on the part of the Highway Patrol across the state to increase enforcement and, we hope, increase seat belt compliance."

The study found that people use belts more often and die in traffic accidents less frequently in the District of Columbia and 17 states that allow officers to stop and ticket unbuckled motorists.

Montana, which allows people to be ticketed for not wearing seat belts only if they are stopped for another offense, received a C in the report.

Nineteen states got D's and F's in the report. Chuck Hurley, executive director of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, said legislators in those states refuse to pass laws that are proven to save lives.

The report graded the states based on a government-approved seat belt use survey, the strength of restraint laws, fatality rates and participation of law enforcement in the crackdown.

"The U.S. ranks behind virtually every other developed country when it comes to seat belt use, with deadly consequences," said Alan McMillan, president of the National Safety Council. "We know that high-visibility enforcement gets people to buckle up and saves lives."

Traffic crashes killed 32,061 Americans in 1999 - or 15 per 100,000 people, much higher than most other developed countries, the report said.

California, which at 89 percent has the highest seat belt use in the country, is the only state to earn an A. Twelve other states and the District of Columbia receive a grade of B or above. All of those states except one - Washington - have primary enforcement laws.

Driscoll said he was "comfortable" with Montana's grade of C, considering the state does not have primary enforcement laws for seat belt use. The state has primary enforcement laws for child restraints, however, meaning officers can stop motorists whose children are not properly restrained.

"I think, overall, Montana does very well," he said. "I think our compliance rates are fairly high here."

Several other states are considering primary seat belt laws. Florida state Rep. Irv Slosberg sponsored a bill this year to strengthen the state's law after his teen-age daughter died in a traffic crash when she was not wearing a seat belt.

"The only proven way to stop these senseless deaths is to strengthen our seat belt law and motivate people to buckle up," he said. "No father should ever have to face the kind of pain I did when Dori was killed."

City unveils new seat belt poster

Missoula safety advocates gathered at the Carousel for Missoula on Monday to celebrate the unveiling of a new seat belt advocacy poster.

Mayor Mike Kadas officially unveiled the poster, dubbed "Buckle Up - It's The Law."

The poster was developed by local safety advocates to send a powerful message to the public to encourage seat belt use for adults and children. Copies of the poster will be distributed throughout the community to doctors' offices, hospitals, day-care centers and schools.

Statistics show that when an adult is not wearing a seat belt, children accompanying them are unbuckled 70 percent of the time, according to the group's press release. Seat belt use in Missoula is at about 60 percent, according to a Missoula City-County Health Department survey.

Law officers will be out in full force this week in Missoula and other cities and towns in the United States, watching for drivers who are not wearing seat belts and who don't buckle up their children.

The poster was developed by local groups, including the Health Department, Missoula Safe Kids Coalition, St. Patrick Hospital, Community Medical Center and First Security Bank.

Missoulian

How each state fared

Associated Press

States graded for their efforts to protect against highway deaths, according to the National Safety Council. Grades are based on a government-approved seat belt use survey, the strength of restraint laws, fatality rates and participation of law enforcement in a seat belt enforcement crackdown:

California……A

New Mexico……A-

District of Columbia……A-

Oregon……B+

Michigan……B+

Maryland……B+

Hawaii……B+

New York……B+

Connecticut……B

North Carolina……B

Washington……B-

Texas……B-

Iowa ……B-

New Jersey……B-

Nevada……C+

Georgia……C+

Utah……C+

Minnesota……C

Arizona……C

Alabama……C

Montana……C

Illinois……C

South Carolina……C

Florida……C

Virginia……C-

Louisiana……C-

Nebraska ……C-

Pennsylvania……C-

Colorado ……C-

Alaska……C-

Oklahoma……C-

Delaware……C-

Rhode Island……D+

Ohio……D+

Indiana……D+

Wisconsin……D+

Maine……D+

Kentucky……D+

Missouri……D+

Wyoming……D+

Kansas……D

Vermont……D

Massachusetts……D-

New Hampshire……F

Arkansas……F

West Virginia… …F

Tennessee……F

North Dakota… …F

South Dakota……F

Mississippi……F

Idaho……F

0
0
0
0
0
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.