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Every year, the Tri-County Buckle Up Montana Program joins the Montana Highway Patrol and local Law Enforcement along with many safety advocates to educate on the benefits of wearing a seat belt and properly securing your children in car seats. May 22-June 4 is the National Click or Ticket-Day and Night Campaign and it kicks off the 100 deadliest days of summer, which occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Contrary to popular belief, more crashes and more fatalities happen during the summer and warmer months, even here in Montana. The warmer weather means that there are more drivers on our roadways. It also means that families are going more places and doing more things. Getting everyone safely to their destinations is the goal, so reminding everyone to buckle up is the most important and effective way to reduce crash injuries and fatalities.

In addition to increased patrols and zero-tolerance enforcement, we really want to get the right information out to motorists. There are too many false notions out there about seat belts:

  • YOUTH - Young adults in particular seem to think they are invincible in vehicles. Unfortunately, they are dying at a disproportionate rate because they are not wearing their seat belts.
  • MALES - Almost twice as many men are dying in vehicle crashes compared to women, and wearing their seat belts less than women.
  • PICKUP TRUCK DRIVERS AND PASSENGERS - Pickup truck occupants think that they don’t need to wear their seat belts because they believe their large vehicles will protect them in a crash. However, the numbers from NHTSA tell the truth: 60 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed in crashes were not buckled up. That’s compared to 42 percent of passenger car occupants who were unbuckled when they were killed in crashes.

Nighttime also poses a particularly dangerous threat to vehicle occupants, which is why an important part of the safety message to motorists includes the words “day and night.” In 2015, about 57 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were killed during the nighttime hours of 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m. were not wearing their seat belts. More people are being killed in nighttime crashes than ever before.

As of May 17, 2017, there have been 45 lives lost on Montana’s roadways, compared to 61 for this time last year. The No. 1 contributing factor to the deaths of these drivers and their passengers is the lack of seat belt use.

The habit of buckling up is simple, and it should be an automatic action for you, and for everyone in your vehicle. Even one unrestrained occupant can harm and injure other restrained occupants in the event of a crash. Do not just buckle up to avoid a ticket — your life, your friends’ lives, and your families’ lives are more important than that.

You can find out more about seat belts and efforts in Montana at www.mdt.mt.gov/visionzero or www.NHTSA.gov

Tracie Kiesel is the coordinator of Tri-County Buckle Up Montana.

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