Whether driving through city streets or rural back roads, seat belts are the single most effective way to stay alive in a car crash. According to the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office (KTSRO), the national use of seat belts in 2019 was 90.7% and Kansas’s seat belt usage was below that at 85%. KTSRO would like 100% compliance.
The three highest-rated counties for seat belt usage in Kansas in 2020 are Johnson (96%), Douglas (95%) and Reno (92%) counties. The three lowest-rated counties in Kansas were Chase (64%), Lyon (65%) and Gove (66%). A study conducted from 2015-2017 showed that 100% of unrestrained vehicle passengers involved in car accidents in Comanche, Greeley, Jewell and Hamilton counties were either killed or injured.
“Any time you are in a vehicle that has a seat belt, wear it,” Patricia Middleton, Traffic Safety Specialist from KTSRO, said. “No matter how slow you’re going or how short the trip, it is important because you never know when a crash will happen. You never know when that other driver is going to hit you, so it’s important to be prepared.”
The most common seat belt myths are that trucks keep people safer, that passengers sitting in the back seat don’t have to wear a seat belt thinking it’s safer, and that driving through rural areas is safer and doesn’t require wearing a seat belt because there are fewer people. KTSRO busts those myths.
No matter the type of vehicle, seat belts will always be the first thing to protect someone in a crash, whether the occupants are in a truck or a smaller passenger car. KTSRO says that in 2018, 59% of pickup truck occupants not wearing a seat belt were killed compared to 42% of passenger car occupants who were not wearing seat belts.
Although the back seat of a car may seem safer, it is in fact deadlier than the front seat, according to data. In 2018, 46% of front-seat passengers killed were unrestrained, versus 56% of back seat passengers who were unrestrained.
Rural areas are no safer than urban areas when it comes to seat belt use. In 2018 rural areas experienced 12,068 passenger vehicle fatalities with 49% of passengers killed from being unrestrained versus urban areas with 10,330 crashes and 45% of passengers killed.
Here are four ways Kansans can be safer while driving:
- Buckle up. It’s the most effective way to stay safe in a vehicle. Seat belts provide security and safety during a crash and keep occupants from being ejected.
- Air bags. These are meant to work in conjunction with seat belts. Air bags can cause harm while rapidly deploying if a seat belt isn’t worn.
- Check to see if your seat belts fit. If buying a new vehicle, make sure the seat belts fit correctly for all passengers, big and small, while test driving. Ask for seat belt adjusters from the dealer or manufacturer if needed. If you drive a “classic” car with lap belts only, check with the vehicle’s manufacturer about retrofitting your car with safer lap/shoulder belts.
- Seat belt safety procedures for children and pregnant women. KTSRO provides additional resources including videos that demonstrate proper seat belt usage for children and pregnant women as well as other resources. Check out the website at https://www.ktsro.org/seatbelts.