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Buckling up on the upswing

A recent report revealed that seatbelt usage is up in the state and holding steady in the county, obviously a very good thing.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a national average seat belt use rate of 85 percent for 2010.

The Seat Belt Use in North Dakota Report conducted in June 2011, showed that 76.6 percent of North Dakotans are buckling up, compared to 74.8 percent in 2010, but still down from the all-time high of 82.2 percent in 2007. Cass County's seatbelt usage is at 86 percent, up from 85.3 percent in 2010. 

In North Dakota, males were less likely than females to wear seatbelts (66.2 percent vs. 80.9 percent). This trend of higher female use rates holds for each vehicle type as well. Male seat belt use rates were observed to be anywhere from 8 percent to 31 percent lower than female use rates for each county surveyed. Van occupants had the highest seat belt use rate at 83.5 percent followed by SUVs (79.6 percent), automobiles (75.4 percent), and pickups (59.8 percent).

The 2011 survey was based on a random probability sample of 16 North Dakota counties and 319 observation sites developed for and approved by NHTSA. Trained observers tracked seat belt use for 16,390 drivers and 4,104 passengers, for a total of 20,494 vehicle occupants.

Among the reasons given most often by motorists for not using seat belts were: short trips, driving/riding in town, and good driving conditions. Some motorists also felt it was a personal choice/freedom/right decision to not wear a seat belt and that it would not affect anyone else if they didn't buckle up. Some also felt that no one had the right to make them wear seat belts.

Safe Communities Coordinator Robyn Litke stated that although the Cass County seat belt usage rate is high, there is still room for improvement. "We're pleased that every year we are seeing an increase in seat belt usage, but Safe Communities would like to see an even higher rate. We challenge everyone who works, plays, lives or studies in our community to buckle up on every trip, every time."

West Fargo Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan would agree with this assessment.

In West Fargo traffic surveys show that usage is typically above 80 percent. A number of traffic citations are issued in West Fargo each year to spur these statistics higher.

"We would like to see these numbers at 100 percent trying to be all inclusive whether it's the driver or passengers," Reitan said.

In an ongoing effort to accomplish just that as well as promote the safety factor, a special traffic enforcement period that is part of a statewide mobilization activity will be conducted starting Nov. 11 and running through Nov. 19, that will include extra emphasis by West Fargo officers putting in overtime hours that will be funded though state highway allocations.

Reitan said the ultimate obvious goal with this campaign is to keep people safe. "When you read about traffic crashes throughout the state of North Dakota and how many times people are ejected and die in an accident that they would have survived had they been wearing their seatbelts," he said everyone should be fastening their seat belts when they enter their vehicles.

"We do realize that 100 percent is probably not realistic but we certainly want to increase the number of people who buckle up."

For anyone seeking additional information, Seat Belt Usage Reports for both Cass County and North Dakota can be found at