Officials today announced a targeted seat belt enforcement and advertising campaign aimed at saving lives by increasing seat belt use among pickup truck drivers. While more motorists than ever before are complying with Louisiana’s seat belt law — with an estimated 84.1 percent buckling up in 2014 – only about 78.5 percent of pickup truck drivers statewide are using seat belts, the lowest rate for all vehicle types, according to the state’s annual seat belt use survey. As a result, highway safety and law enforcement officials are clamping down April 24-30 with a “Buckle up in Your Truck” high visibility enforcement and advertising campaign, aimed at pickup truck drivers — especially those in areas of the state with the lowest levels of compliance. “Although there has been some improvement in seat belt use among pickup truck drivers, data shows they’re consistently buckling up less than drivers of other vehicles, and it’s costing lives,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, which is coordinating the “Buckle up in Your Truck” campaign. “We’re providing grants statewide – but especially in low-compliance regions of Louisiana – so officers can work overtime to enforce the state’s seat belt law with a focus on pickup trucks.”
Officials launched the campaign in Alexandria, the heart of a region where only an estimated 52.3 percent of pickup truck drivers use seat belts, based on data from the 2014 Louisiana Seat Belt and Motorcycle Helmet Observation Survey.
Regional seat belt use by pickup truck drivers in the 2014 survey was as follows:
Through its “Buckle up in Your Truck” campaign, the Commission, with the support of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, involves the Louisiana State Police, as well as law enforcement officers and traffic safety coalitions from across the state.
Officers will issue tickets to anyone they observe to be in violation of Louisiana’s seat belt law, which requires all vehicle occupants to use seat belts while a vehicle is in motion. The campaign also includes paid media aimed at pickup truck drivers and their passengers. Research shows high-visibility enforcement coupled with public education is effective in saving lives and gaining motorist compliance with traffic laws.
“The law says everyone in a vehicle must wear a seat belt, and officers will have no problem issuing tickets to motorists they observe violating the law. They know what’s likely to happen when there’s a crash and occupants are unbelted. They’ve experienced the tragedy firsthand. No one should take that risk,” said Capt. J.D. Oliphant, Commander of Louisiana State Police, Troop E, which hosted the campaign launch event.
LeBlanc said data underscores the need for the campaign. He pointed to recently finalized statistics collected by LSU Highway Safety Research Group that shows pickup trucks were involved in 24.9 percent of Louisiana’s fatal crashes in 2013. Pickup drivers alone accounted for 23.7% of driver fatalities that year. In cases where seat belt use was known, about 62 percent of Louisiana pickup up truck drivers killed were not properly restrained. Nationally, in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, 59 percent of pickup truck drivers involved in fatal crashes were unrestrained.
Officials said the increased risk of rollover in certain types of crashes makes using seat belts in trucks even more important. Unbelted occupants are frequently ejected and injured or killed when a vehicle rolls over.
According to NHTSA, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injuries by 50 percent. Meanwhile, for light-truck occupants, the impact is even greater. Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent and moderate-to-critical injury by 65 percent. An estimated eight lives are saved in Louisiana for every one percentage point increase in seat belt use.
Louisiana has a primary enforcement seat-belt law, meaning officers can stop and ticket anyone they spot not buckled up.