When Zero Is a Good Thing

The Pressing Need for Seatbelt Programs in Rural Areas

Despite the fact that vehicle congestion is virtually non-existent in many rural areas, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s numbers show that fatality rates per million vehicle miles traveled in rural area are double those of urban crashes. There are many factors contributing to this, most notably the greater number of rural miles traveled and the increased time it takes EMS to reach accident sites in rural areas. However, when taken in tandem with the fact rural drivers are less likely to wear seatbelts than urban drivers, there seems to be a readily available solution to bring these numbers down. Increasing seatbelt use, particularly amongst rural drivers who have higher fatality rights and correspondingly lower seatbelt utilization numbers is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to reduce casualties on our nation’s roads.

Table displaying comparison of Rural and Urban Fatalities based on seat belt use. Time period covered 2003-2013

Figure 1. Fatality Facts. IIHS. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/roadway-and-environment/fatalityfacts/roadway-and-environment#Safety-belt-use

Behavioral safety strategies, seatbelt patrols, and promoting “Click it or Ticket” campaigns all serve as efficient and effective methods to reduce death rates. Some of the lowest rates of seatbelt usage are found amongst young, pickup truck drivers in rural areas, calling the need for some kind of targeted enforcement alongside emphasis in school driver’s education programs. Given that only 19% of our country’s population lives in rural areas, yet they account for 54% of our traffic fatalities, this is a critical first step measure. While higher rates of impaired and distracted driving also factor heavily into these numbers, the bolstering of seatbelt campaigns would help reduce fatality rates across the board. Addressing risky behaviors like low seat belt usage will always necessitate coordination from public officials, schools, law enforcement, and public works. To that end, we ask that you join the campaign and Petition to see more emphasis in seatbelt reinforcement programs here to let your public officials know that you want to see more emphasis in seatbelt enforcement programs in your state.

When Zero Is a Good Thing