|CHARLESTON, WV — Many Americans will take to the roads during the upcoming long weekend in search of that last adventure before winter begins in a few months. The increased travel means more vehicles on the roads, and data shows an increase in motor vehicle crashes as well. To help drivers and passengers remember the importance of buckling up, the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are teaming up for Operation Crash Reduction. This effort is focused on Delaware, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia — a region that sees some of the nation’s highest numbers of traffic crash-induced fatalities.
As the holiday weekend nears, the GHSP is reminding all drivers of the importance of correct seat belt use and other safe driving practices. Not only is it the law in every participating state, but buckling up provides the best defense against injury or death in a crash. This regional campaign runs from October 7 through October 10, and its purpose is to save lives and prevent injuries due to traffic crashes.
West Virginia’s statewide seat belt enforcement mobilization begins October 7 and continues through October 23. West Virginia law enforcement officers will be out in full force, ticketing seat belt violators who are caught traveling without a buckled seat belt or transporting unrestrained children.
According to NHTSA, from 2015-2019, this specific set of states had 885 fatal crashes from October 1-15. This is the highest number of fatal crashes for the first 15 days of any month during this same time period. In fact, from 2015 to 2019, October was the most likely month for fatal crashes to occur in these states, with 1,785 total fatal crashes. In these fatal crashes, more than 46% of occupant fatalities in passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses were unrestrained. During that same period in these states, more fatal crashes occurred on the heavily traveled holiday weekend (253) than during the holiday periods of Thanksgiving or Memorial Day.
“For several years now, we have had this troubling trend in this East Coast region,” said Stephanie Hancock, NHTSA Regional Administrator. “We know that speed, distraction, and impairment are the root causes of most of the crashes in these states. However, seat belt and child safety seat use are your primary sources of protection in crashes caused by a speeding, impaired, or distracted driver.”
“We know that these types of crashes typically occur around national holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving,” added Bob Tipton, GHSP Director. “However, we were surprised to learn that over the past five years, more fatal crashes occurred in these states on the upcoming heavily traveled holiday weekend than during more highly traveled holidays like Thanksgiving or Memorial Day weekend. That is why we are working with NHTSA and law enforcement agencies in West Virginia to remind everyone to drive safely and buckle up during the holiday weekend.”
Nationally, 45% of all front-row passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2019 were unrestrained, but 58% of those killed in back seats were unrestrained.
“Too many people wrongly believe they are safe in the back seat or in a pickup truck without buckling up. Remember, no matter where you are seated or how big your vehicle is, if you are unrestrained you can be fully ejected from the vehicle—which is almost always deadly,” said Amy Boggs, GHSP Occupant Protection Program Coordinator.
“During Operation Crash Reduction, law enforcement officers will be checking for seat belt use across the state, while educating drivers and passengers on the importance of wearing a seat belt,” Boggs concluded. “Seat belts save lives, and everyone — front seat and back, child and adult — should remember to buckle up.”
For more information on Operation Crash Reduction, please visit Facebook.com/wvghsp or Twitter.com/wvhighwaysafety.
For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit highwaysafety.wv.gov or call 304-926-2509.