Intensive Seat Belt Campaign Launched for Pickup Truck Drivers
Although pickup trucks represent only about 25 percent of the vehicles in Louisiana, pickup truck drivers accounted for 66-percent of those killed in crashes in 2012 while not wearing seat belts. Safety advocates are launching a campaign to try to improve those odds.
State highway safety officials are making this dire statistic and the high rate of rollover crashes in pickup trucks the focus of an advertising and high visibility seat belt enforcement campaign this month.
The campaign, which is funded by federal dollars, involves the Louisiana State Police, as well as law enforcement officers and traffic safety coalitions from across the state.
“Year after year, our surveys have found that pickup truck drivers have the lowest level of seat belt use among drivers of all other vehicles,” said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, which is coordinating the “Buckle Up in Your Truck” campaign.
“With officers across Louisiana working 5,000 overtime within a one-week period to enforce the state’s seat belt law with a focus on pickup trucks, we are optimistic that the result will be lives saved,” LeBlanc said.
Research has shown that high-visibility enforcement coupled with public education is an effective strategy for gaining motorist compliance with traffic laws. The “Buckle Up in Your Truck” enforcement effort includes intensified patrols and checkpoints dedicated to seat-belt compliance, especially among pickup truck occupants.
A 2013 observational survey found that 76.4 percent of pickup truck drivers and front-seat passengers were buckled up, significantly below the 82.5 percent statewide average for all vehicles.
The highest rate of seat belt use among front-seat passengers by vehicle type was 86.3 percent for occupants of vans, followed by 86.1 percent for SUV occupants, and 85 percent for occupants of cars. Nighttime seat-belt use among pickup truck occupants is even worse than it is during daytime hours and significantly lower than that of occupants in other vehicles.
The high fatality rate for pickup truck occupants is but one of several negative statistics that prompted the LHSC, with support of the National Highway Traffic Safety Transportation Administration, to conduct “Buckle Up in Your Truck,” the most intensive state campaign ever directed at encouraging pickup truck occupants to use seat belts. Enforcement officers will be issuing tickets to anyone they find not in compliance with Louisiana’s seat belt law, which requires all occupants to be buckled up while a vehicle is in motion.
Louisiana’s safety record for pickup trucks ranks low when compared to national rates. Nationally, in 2011, 63.9 percent of pickup truck drivers involved in fatal crashes were restrained, while only 54.4 percent of Louisiana pickup truck drivers involved in fatal crashes were restrained.
LHSC officials believe the total number of people killed in Louisiana crashes each year would decrease appreciably if more pickup truck occupants buckled up.
Using seat belts in trucks is especially important because they are more prone to rolling over in certain types of crashes. Unbelted occupants are frequently ejected and injured or killed when a vehicle rolls over. When used properly, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. NHTSA estimates that in 2010 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 12,546 lives.
Louisiana has a primary enforcement seat-belt law, meaning officers can stop and ticket anyone they spot not buckled up.