OLYMPIA – Nearly 98 percent of motorists in Washington are using their seat belts, one of the highest rates in the nation, the state’s Traffic Safety Commission says.
The percentage of Washington drivers and passengers using seat belts rose to 97.6 percent this year, an improvement of 1.2 percentage points from 2009. The usage rate has been hovering around 96.4 percent for several years.
“The closer we get to 100 percent seat belt use, the more difficult it becomes to realize higher use rates,” commission Director Lowell Porter said in a news release Tuesday. “To jump from 96.4 to 97.6 percent is truly a significant improvement that moves Washington closer to its goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.”
Washington law requires seat belts on all passengers, and police can write tickets for noncompliance without any other infraction taking place.
Observers in each state conduct a survey each year for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“The increase of 1.2 percent in the past year means that one third of nonusers in 2009 became seat belt users in 2010, truly an amazing accomplishment given that Washington has maintained one of the highest seat belt use rates in the nation for so many years,” said Dick Doane, research Investigator with the commission.
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste, however, points out that state troopers still write about 47,000 tickets a year for not buckling up.
“These last few percentage points represent people who have simply not gotten the message about the value of seat belts,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “It appears that enforcement is the only way to win their compliance, and we will not hesitate to use that tool.”