MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Morgantown Police Department is conducting high-visibility seat belt enforcement as part of the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program Click It or Ticket campaign. This enforcement effort will run from Aug. 6 through Aug. 22.
Additional officers will be deployed on special traffic patrols specifically to stop and ticket drivers for failing to use safety belts. This effort works towards reducing the number of fatalities that occur when drivers and passengers fail to buckle up.
“The statistics right now are pretty favorable as far as the use of seatbelts,” said Chief of Police Eric Powell. “You know, right now it’s about 90% of drivers are using their seatbelts according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. However, what the safety belt does for you as a driver is it protects you in case that you are involved in a motor vehicle crash. It’s something that anyone can do. Everyone can do it.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released preliminary estimates of crash fatalities in 2020 involving motor vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, and people walking and biking. In 2020, Americans drove less but more people died on the roadways. An estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle crashes – the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007.
That is an increase of 7.2% as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019. The main behaviors that drove this increase include impaired driving, speeding and failure to wear a seat belt. Two of the largest increases from 2019 to 2020 were: Occupant Ejection (up 20%) and Unrestrained Occupants of Passenger Vehicles (up 15%).
“Put simply, seatbelts save people’s lives,” Powell said. “There’s no way to predict when you’re going to be involved in an accident. There’s no way to know what other drivers are doing, or what situations you’re going to be confronted with while driving down the road. And getting into a vehicle and driving a vehicle, it can be a very dangerous proposition. I mean, people get in accidents all the time. It’s very common and people die because they don’t wear their seatbelts. And it’s a very simple and easy way to protect yourself and to ensure some level of safety in case you do become involved in a motor vehicle accident.”
The Morgantown Police Department is reminding all drivers and passengers that West Virginia law requires everyone under the age of 18 to be properly secured in a safety belt or child safety seat, no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle. In addition, West Virginia law requires everyone in the front seat of vehicles to be properly restrained, regardless of age.
The penalty for a violation of the safety belt law is a $25 fine.
“We’re not out to, you know, make any money or try to harass people because of the safety belt laws,” Powell said. “Our goal is to convince people that it’s a useful and important thing to do when you get into your vehicle to put your safety belt on for your safety. You know, the fine is relatively small, it’s a $25 fine if you receive a citation, so it’s a minimal cost for something that’s very important and that’s protecting and showing your safety on the roadways.”