Many killed in wrecks not wearing seat belts

Published 8:35 pm Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The number of drivers killed in traffic accidents across the state of Alabama during the first two months of 2014 was considerably higher than last year, and one quarter of those killed this year were not wearing an available seatbelt at the time of the fatal accidents.

According to figures from the Alabama Department of Public Safety, through the end of February, 86 people had been killed on Alabama roadways, and 74 of those had seatbelts available. Of the 74 who could have utilized seatbelts, 44 did not, 22 did and eight could not be determined through a crash investigation.

At the same date in 2013, there had been 68 fatalities. Of the 68 people killed, 58 had the opportunity to utilize a seatbelt and 35 did not use a seatbelt, 22 did and one could not be determined.

The fatality totals for both years, 86 deaths in 2014 and 68 in 2013, include people who were killed and did not have a seat belt available to them. Those without seat belts available to them could include pedestrians, motorcyclists or people riding in cars built before the federal government mandated seat belts be installed in all new cars. There have been 11 such deaths in 2014, and there were 10 by this point in calendar year 2013.

The total number of traffic fatalities rose again this week to 87 after man, who was not wearing a seat belt, was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Highway 33 near Hayneville on Monday.

Selma Chief of Police Williams Riley said he feels more drivers in Selma have taken then time to buckle-in over recent years, as he has seen fewer people complaining about a seat belt violation at the police station, something he attributes to media coverage of fatal accidents where seat belts where not used.

“I think when people read a story in the paper about a wreck where someone was killed because they didn’t buckle up, I think that resonates with them,” Riley said. “You never want to see or hear about anyone getting killed in a wreck, and I think the reality that a seatbelt could save your life is something people respect.”

Riley said the police department is sent money from the state through traffic grants, which allows officers to step up the level of seat belt enforcement within the city limits.

“If I, or any of my officers see you without a seatbelt on, we’re going to pull you over,” Riley said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Robyn Litchfield, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said she hopes the public realizes the importance of buckling-up before hitting the road.

“People need to realize it’s the single most effective way to ensure you and your loved ones stay safe while on the state’s roadways,” Litchfield said. “No matter how short the trip is.”