Rhode Island saw two very different outcomes from seat belt use this week. On Tuesday, March 9 a driver, who was involved in a single car crash, rolled his vehicle, was ejected and killed. On Thursday, March 11 a driver, who was struck from behind by another vehicle, rolled his vehicle and received only minor injuries is alive because he wore a seat belt.
Both vehicles were totaled. Both drivers had the same opportunity to buckle up. Only one driver chose to wear a seat belt and that might be because Rhode Island does not have a primary seat belt law.
“As a rollover survivor myself, I know what a life or death decision strapping a safety belt on can be,” said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. “You never know what can happen when you get on the road. Wearing your seat belt is one simple step you can take to protect yourself and those who depend on you.”
Wearing a seat belt doesn’t just impact you. As seen in Thursday’s rear end crash, sometimes crashes occur without any actions of your own.
In Rhode Island, children under 18 are required by law to wear their seat belts every time they get into a motor vehicle. Adults are as well, but drivers can only be cited for failure to wear a seat belt if they are pulled over for another offense. Seat belt use by occupants killed in cars is lower in Rhode Island (34%) than in the region (44%) and in the US overall (51%).
“Safety has always been the number one priority at RIDOT,” said Lewis. “Nationally the numbers are going down, but Rhode Island still has numbers that are too high.”
In the Ocean State seat belt usage numbers are stuck at 75%. Nationally, the average is 83%. A primary law has been shown to drive usage numbers up by at least 10 percent.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Hispanics birth to 34 years old and for African Americans birth to 14 years old. It is also the secondary leading cause of death for African Americans 15 to 24 years of age. Many of these deaths occurred because the driver or passenger was not wearing a seat belt.
Primary seat belt legislation has been introduced in the House by Representatives Douglas Gablinske, Raymond Gallison, and Roberto DaSilva, and in the Senate by Senators John Tassoni, Susan Sosnowski, and David Bates.