Letters for 10-30-2014

NELA trails seat belt trend statewide
Louisiana motorists are buckling up at record high rates in 2014.
And while the improvement is noteworthy, also are observations that more work needs to be done to convince male, some minority and pickup truck drivers and passengers to always wear their seat belts.
The state’s annual survey of seat-belt use estimated that 84.1 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers were buckled up in 2014, up 1.6 percentage points from last year’s rate of 82.5 percent. Despite a series of back-to-back annual increases, males, African-Americans and pickup truck occupants lagged behind in buckling up — in some cases considerably below state averages for all drivers and front-seat occupants.
“The 2014 survey verifies that we are on the right track in our work to save lives by increasing seat-belt use,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “On the other hand, the survey pinpoints specific areas where there remains room for substantial improvements.”
Northeast Louisiana would be one of those specific areas. Research indicated that drivers and motorists this area considerably less likely to buckle up than others around the state. Data shows nearly nine in 10 drivers in Lake Charles were observed wearing seat belts, while only three in four in northeast Louisiana were complying with the law.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission have for years recognized that certain groups of motorists fall behind in seat belt use. For that reason, specific education campaigns have been designed and executed to reach out to those groups—especially pickup truck drivers and occupants. In general, some male drivers—especially young ones—are more prone to engage in risky driving behaviors, which could account for their lower seat belt use.
LeBlanc attributes much of the recent years’ improvements in seat-belt use to Click It or Ticket, a nationwide enforcement and public information campaign, which officials introduced in Louisiana in 2003.
“Our annual Click It or Ticket campaigns have played a major role in raising awareness of the importance of always buckling up,” LeBlanc said. “We believe that this campaign, coordinated nationwide by NHTSA, has saved countless lives by convincing motorists across the nation to always fasten their seat belts.”