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WV police agencies to crack down on seat belt laws

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — As part of West Virginia’s seatbelt enforcement campaign, law enforcement agencies across the state will be stepping up enforcement of seatbelt laws this month.

In West Virginia, the maximum penalty for a seatbelt violation is a $25 dollar fine.

There were 113 unrestrained vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2013. Nationally, almost twice as many males were killed in crashes as females. Of the males killed in crashes in 2013, 54 percent were unrestrained, the percentage of unrestrained females who were killed in fatal crashes was 41.

“If you ask the family members of those unrestrained people who were killed in crashes, they’ll tell you – they wish their loved ones had buckled up,” said Toni Tiano, coordinator for the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety Program. “The bottom line is that seatbelts save lives. If these enforcement crackdowns get people’s attention, and get them to buckle up, then we’ve done our job.”

The seatbelt law became a primary offense in West Virginia on July 9, 2013, meaning law enforcement can pull over a vehicle for the driver not wearing a seatbelt, no other offense is needed, Tiano said. The seatbelt usage rate in the state dropped in 2013 to 82.2 percent from 84 percent in 2012. As a result, the mini-blitz periods began in 2014 to remind drivers of the seatbelt law, Tiano said.

As a result of the stepped enforcement, officials said seatbelt usage increased to 87.8 percent in 2014.

“These blitz periods will be in November 2015, March 2016, August 2016, and the main one – Click It Or Ticket Month is in May 2016,” Tiano said.

The official seatbelt surveys were conducted in June 2015 but the results are not yet available, Tiano noted. The nationwide seatbelt rate for 2014 is 87 percent which was the same as 2013.

Law enforcement agencies in the region that have received funds to conduct overtime enforcement for the seatbelt enforcement campaign include: Vienna Police Department; Williamstown Police Department; Parkersburg Police Department; Wood County Sheriff’s Department; Doddridge County Sheriff’s Department; West Union Police Department; Ritchie County Sheriff’s Department; Pennsboro Police Department; Harrisville Police Department; St. Marys Police Department; Spencer Police Department; Roane County Sheriff’s Department; Glenville Police Department; Jackson County Sheriff’s Department; Ripley Police Department; Ravenswood Police Department.

A total of 16 of the 21 law enforcement agencies in the region have received Occupant Protection overtime funds for this specific period.

In 2013, a total of 21,132 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in crashes, 49 percent of them were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

According to the national statistics:

* Approximately 64 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in nighttime crashes in 2013 were not wearing seatbelts, compared to 48 percent during daytime hours.

* Among passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in 2013, the age group 21-24 had the highest percentage of occupants killed that were unrestrained: 2,415 fatalities, of which 55 percent were not wearing seatbelts.

* According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seatbelts saved approximately 12,584 lives nationwide in 2013. If everyone had worn seat belts that year, an additional 2,800 lives could have been saved.

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