More motorists in the state are buckling up – giving Washington the highest seat belt use rate in the nation – but those caught not using their seat belt in the Tri-Cities likely will find themselves with a ticket.
Washington State Patrol officials said a federal report released Friday put the state’s seat belt use rate at 97.5 percent in 2011, making the state the highest in the nation and 2011 the seventh year in a row with a rate over 95 percent.
In 2010, the state’s rate was 97.6 percent and tied with Hawaii for the top spot. The national average for seat belt use in 2011 was 84 percent.
“News like this makes me proud to be living in Washington,” Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, said in a news release Friday. “Safe roadways are a team effort that includes everybody using their seat belts because they know that seat belts save lives.”
A seat belt violation is a primary offense in Washington, which means motorists can be pulled over if they’re caught not wearing a seat belt.
The push for seat belt enforcement is about saving lives, officials said.
Troopers “see firsthand the results of not wearing a seat belts and are extremely motivated to reduce these unnecessary injuries and deaths,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste.
The risk of dying in a crash is reduced by 61 percent if the person in the vehicle is wearing lap-and-shoulder restraints, according to an estimate by the Haborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.
DUI is still the No. 1 contributor in fatality collisions, Saunders said, but unrestrained motorists is a close second.