LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Seat belt use has reached a 17-year low here in Michigan, according to a study done at Michigan State University.
It’s dropped almost 2 percent since 2019 and is down more than 5 percent from its record high in 2009.
Kendall Wingrove is the Communications Manager for the Office of Highway Safety, and he says that while the numbers may seem low- it is a big deal.
“While that might seem insignificant, that’s a big drop… we haven’t had a seatbelt compliance rate like this since 2004 so we’re very concerned.”
This comes on the heels of the Michigan State Police releasing numbers that show 2020 had the most traffic deaths in a single year since 2007, despite fewer cars being on the road during the pandemic.
So, what’s behind this shift?
Lieutenant Brian Oleksiak is the Public Information Officer in mid-Michigan for the Michigan State Police he says he has seen this trend first hand.
“My office is located in Eaton County… at the end of the day… I can look over and see somebody not wearing a seatbelt and that happens almost on a daily basis and they’re on a road that’s in front of a state police post.”
Every one percent increase in seatbelts worn results in 10 fewer deaths and 100 fewer serious injuries.
The question now is what can be done to move this trend in the other direction?
“We do it with the two- E’s educate and enforce… We spend weeks trying to educate the public. It is not a stealth operation… our goal is for people to just have people wear their seatbelts, not to give tickets. We want to enforce, but even more than that, we want to educate” says Oleksiak.
The message from both Wingrove and Oleksiak was simple- seatbelt violations aren’t crimes. They’re dangerous and the goal for everyone every day is to just make it home safely.