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Holiday safety spotlight: Seat belts
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HOISINGTON — Holiday travel will be putting many of us on the roads over the next couple weeks, and more traffic can mean greater risk of crashes. 

According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, last year’s Christmas weekend saw 438 car crashes across Kansas, with one death and 90 injuries. New Year’s weekend was worse, with 464 crashes, five fatalities, and 140 injuries – double the deaths and 50 percent more injuries than the year before. 

Wearing your seat belt is the most effective way to avoid serious injury or death, reducing those risks by half and saving around 14,000 lives per year. Nationally, nearly half of those who die in crashes are not belted. 

According to KDOT, over the last five years, 40 percent of crash fatalities in Barton County were unbuckled.

Recent data shows good news and bad news for Kansas when it comes to seat belt use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt use in Kansas last year rose by nearly 5 percent from the prior year, the highest increase in the nation. But at a use rate of 87 percent, Kansas still ranks near the bottom third of U.S. states in seat belt use. (Barton County’s most recent observed seat belt rate was 85 percent.)

This holiday season, the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office and State Farm are putting the spotlight on seat belt safety and encouraging seat belt use with an awareness effort called “Be Seat belt SAFE for the Holidays.”

This campaign includes a special assortment of seat belt-safety literature from KTSRO that is being made available at select State Farm agent offices. Literature is free and covers such topics as:

• Kansas seat belt law, enforcement, and fines

• Safe buckling practices for pregnant women

• Kansas distracted driving laws

• The SAFE (Seat belts Are For Everyone) teen driver safety program, which promotes seat belt use and other safe driving practices in 161 high schools in 67 counties across the state.

In Hoisington, State Farm Agent Kathy Burt will have this literature available at her office at 165 South Main. For more information, stop by or call her office at 620-653-2332. 

Kansas Seat belt Fast Facts:

• Women are more likely to be belted than men.

• Trucks, which account for about one in five vehicles observed, have a substantially lower seat belt use rate (76 percent) than other vehicles (90-91 percent).

• Male truck drivers are the lowest single category of belt users (75 percent).

• Rural counties tend to produce a lower belt use rate than urban counties.

• The more “local” the trip, the less likely occupants are to be buckled up.

More Seat Belt Facts:

• A 2006 NHTSA study of crash data found that 75 percent of drivers ejected during a car accident were killed. Only 1 percent of them were wearing a seat belt.

• Seat belts are designed to spread crash forces across the stronger parts of the upper body. Injuries sustained when not wearing a seat belt can be up to five times greater. (Source: IIHS)

• Unbelted passengers are a risk to others inside the vehicle in a car crash. In a frontal crash, an unbelted rear seat passenger sitting behind a belted driver increases the risk of fatality for the driver by 137 percent compared with a belted rear seat passenger.