Virginia DMV: Unbelted deaths on increase despite decrease in road traffic
Overall traffic deaths have decreased since mid-March, but the rate of people dying on the Commonwealth’s roads in unbelted crashes dating back to the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown has increased.
“We have all observed some drivers practicing unsafe behaviors with less vehicles on the roadways, but the most disturbing trend is that more people are dying because they are not making the simple decision to click their seat belts,” said Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. When comparing crash data from last year and 2020 between Jan. 1 through June 30, unrestrained fatalities increased nearly 16% with 161 people dying in unbelted crashes during that time this year.
Virginia DMV launched a buckle up educational campaign to encourage all drivers to wear their seat belts – especially those who wear their belts the least, men ages 18 to 35 living in rural areas of Virginia. The focus of the effort is to increase seat belt use and decrease unrestrained deaths. The campaign includes media advertising through television, radio and digital mediums, along with public relations and education.
Last year, 52% of Virginia’s highway fatalities were not wearing a safety restraint. Of the 304 unrestrained deaths, 187 of the people were either totally or partially ejected from the vehicle.
The 2019 Virginia seat belt use rate was 85%, and it was 84% in 2018. The 2019 seat belt use survey report concluded that female drivers buckle up 89% of the time compared to 82% for male drivers, and 90% of female passengers wear a seat belt, while only 73% of male passengers wear one.
“We are urging everyone, particularly young men, to always wear your seat belt, even on short trips close to home. And if you are the parent, friend or loved one of a young male, remind him how buckling up truly saves lives, and how devastating it would be to lose him,” Holcomb added.