The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today joined forces with State and local law enforcement to emphasize the importance of wearing seat belts in a very direct way. They discussed the topic in front of a heavily damaged vehicle at State Towing Service on Valley Street in Providence. The event kicks off RIDOT’s annual Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign, May 18-31.
Despite the vehicle’s substantial damage, the passenger compartment remained intact and the occupants survived with minimal injuries. The intact area, dubbed “room to live,” only affords protection to the driver and their passengers if they buckle up. The 2001 Buick LeSabre sustained severe damage during a recent accident at the corner of Valley Street and Pleasant Valley Parkway in Providence. If the driver and front seat passenger were not wearing seat belts, they likely would have been thrown into the windshield and possibly ejected.
“This vehicle is a living example of the importance of wearing seat belts,” noted RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis, who credits wearing a seat belt for saving his life during a rollover crash when he was in college. “As you can see, the passenger compartment is fully intact, providing occupants with ‘room to live’ so long as they buckle up. Clearly the occupants of this car would have received significant injuries or worse if they had not been wearing their seat belts.”
RIDOT estimates that each year an additional nine to 10 lives could be saved if seat belts are worn. Forty-one vehicle occupants died on Rhode Island roadways during 2007 (the most recent available full-year statistics), and of those 46 percent were not wearing seat belts. Seat belts also have been proven to significantly reduce severe injuries in crashes.
Rhode Island’s seat belt usage rate stands at 72 percent, lagging behind the national average of 83 percent. This year’s campaign will place special emphasis on seat belt use by pick-up truck drivers, who rank low in seat belt usage. Only 10 percent of pick-up truck drivers and their occupants in fatal crashes between 2003 and 2007 were wearing seat belts.
Rhode Island currently has a secondary seat belt law, meaning that police officers can only issue a seat belt fine if a vehicle is pulled over for another motor vehicle infraction. If they do, the driver and all occupants face the potential of an $85 ticket. RIDOT supports proposed legislation before the General Assembly to establish a primary seat belt law, meaning that a police officer can pull over a motorist for not wearing a seat belt.
The Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign includes approximately $96,000 in Federal grants to the State Police and local police departments for additional patrols looking for unbuckled drivers. RIDOT estimates that the funds will put close to 50 additional officers on the street during the enforcement period.
To support the on-street enforcement, RIDOT’s Office on Highway Safety has organized a media campaign aimed at increasing seat belt usage. Motorists will encounter the ads on TV, radio, the Internet, billboards and for the first time, RIPTA buses and gas station pump top ads.
RIDOT has even enlisted the assistance of the cartoon animated character Peter Griffin, who lives in the fictitious town of Quahog, Rhode Island on Fox Television’s “Family Guy,” to get Rhode Islanders to buckle up. This advertisement will appear through May on WNAC Fox-64 and its sister station WPRI-12.
Contact: Charles St. Martin 401-222-1362 x4007