Friday, February 19, 2010

Our Primary Goal

One of the top strategies for reducing fatalities and injuries on Missouri roads is strengthening Missouri's seat belt law to allow for primary enforcement. Getting this law passed in our state will save lives, reduce injuries and save our state a lot of money. To me, it’s truly a no-brainer, but there are still people who don’t understand why we need a primary law.

Seven out of 10 Missourians killed in 2008 Missouri traffic crashes were unbuckled. Of those not killed or injured, 97 percent were wearing their seat belt at the time of the accident. And although our fatality rates on our roads have been decreasing for the last four years, we still had 880 people killed on our roads in 2009 – and many of them weren’t wearing their seat belts.

In fact, a 2009 survey reported only 77 percent of Missourians are buckling up. The state's rate has been at a plateau since 2004 and remains consistently below the national average of 84 percent. Research shows a primary seat belt law would increase the usage rate saving 63 lives, 759 serious injuries and $179 million in costs in the first year it goes into effect. Amending the current law will also provide $16.2 million in a one-time federal incentive grant to use for safety enforcement, education and engineering.

Missouri’s current seat belt law is considered only a secondary offense, meaning that a person must first be cited for some other traffic violation before being issued a ticket for failing to wear a safety belt.

Representative Steve Webber from Columbia recently introduced HB 1877 to the House of Representatives that would change all that. This bill would modify Missouri’s current seat belt law by making it a primary traffic offense and all drivers and passengers would be required to wear a safety belt.

I know there are still some people who won’t be in favor of a primary law, but the truth is Missouri needs it. This law will save money, reduce injuries on our roads and most importantly save lives – maybe even of someone you love. Let’s make this the year Missouri makes safety its primary goal.