Survey: Who is and who isn't buckling up


Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 12:35 a.m.
Four young people lost their lives in three separate vehicle crashes in the area during the weekend.
A common denominator in the tragedies was that none of the victims was wearing a seat belt - a sobering correlation between young adults and seat belt use that officials say is not just a coincidence.
"It's a problem that brochures aren't going to fix," said Lt. Mike Burroughs with the Florida Highway Patrol. "And the same old methodologies that have been used in the past to get the message across are not going to work."
When it comes to not buckling up, Burroughs said, motorists ages 19-25 are the biggest culprits. Other factors that seem to affect seat belt use include whether it is a man or a woman and what kind of vehicle is being driven - and statistics indicate men and those riding in pickups are the biggest offenders.
In two of the weekend's crashes, pickups were involved. In one, four High Springs area young adults were riding in a pickup around midnight Saturday when it left the roadway for an unknown reason and struck a tree. William Matthew Long, 19, and Kristie Lynn Lamoureaux, 17, died in the crash at NW 142nd Avenue and NW 268th Street, according to FHP.
Long's brother, Michael Joseph Long, 20, and John Quinn Presnell, 17, were seriously injured, but survived, troopers said.
The second crash occurred along State Road 18 in Bradford County early Saturday. Codey Ann Murray, 20, of Newberry, was killed after her pickup ran off the road and crashed through a fence before striking a tree. Her passenger, Daniel Smith Griffis II, 23, of Starke, was transported with minor injuries.
The third crash occurred early Sunday near Lake City, according to FHP. Dennis Edward Hart Jr., 24, was traveling west on U.S. 90 when he lost control of his Jeep and was ejected and killed when the vehicle overturned.
Burroughs said it only adds to the tragedy of the crashes when one considers that the deaths might have been prevented.
"(Seat belts) would have made a difference in all these crashes," Burroughs said. He said there was at least a 70 percent chance they would have been injured, but not killed.
Seat belt use has risen in Florida from 62 percent in mid-1993 to 81 percent in June 2006, a seat belt use study for the Florida Department of Transportation showed. The increase has been attributed to efforts to enforce the state's adult seat belt law.
Of the 2,325 drivers and passengers killed on Florida roads last year, 1,444, or 62 percent, were not wearing seat belts, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported. That figure remained constant from 2004. The percentage of children ages 0 to 17 killed in crashes because they were not using safety equipment declined from 69 percent in 2004 to 57 percent in 2005.
Nationally last year, drivers more commonly used seat belts than passengers.
Motorists in vans and sport utility vehicles were more likely to wear seat belts, while those in pickups were the least likely. Seat belt use was more common in suburban areas, followed by urban locations and finally rural areas, according to the Traffic Safety Administration.
Reasons for using a seat belt ranged among drivers from fear of serious injury, the most common, to being reminded by something in the vehicle, such as a bell or light, to put on the belt, a 2003 Traffic Safety Administration survey showed.
The same study listed reasons drivers don't wear seat belts. The three most common answers were because the motorists were in a rush, they forgot to put it on or because they were only going a short distance, the top ranked answer.
Seat belt laws States with seat belt use enforcement laws have higher rates of seat belt usage, the Traffic Safety Administration reported.
Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia had primary enforcement laws by July 2006, which means officers can stop and ticket a person solely for not wearing a seat belt.
Florida is not among these states. Officers can only make a traffic stop if it is based on another violation such as speeding, something that Florida Rep. Rich Glorioso, R- Plant City, hopes to change with a bill he filed late last year to make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense.
"I feel strongly that this common sense change to the safety belt law in Florida will save lives, and the statistics from other states show this to be true," Glorioso said in a news release in November.
Legislators have been trying since the mid-1990s to change Florida's seat belt law, which was passed in 1986.
Burroughs said he has seen the bill fail before because seat belt use is not a popular issue, but hopes this year might be different.
"It's not a popular item," he said. "However, right now, traffic deaths among teens is a national pandemic. We read about it every day in the paper, but nobody wants to take the unpopular stance of making seat belts a primary law. It's going to take a grassroots effort and campaign put on by the motoring public."
According to Cori Cuttler, an aide for Glorioso, seat belt use strikes some as a matter of personal preference, not of governmental interference. But she said The Preusser Research Group estimates that changing the seat belt law could reduce the state's Medicaid costs by $117.8 million over the next 10 years.
"Your personal responsibility ends when the rest of society must pay for you," Cuttler said.
Alice Wallace can be reached at 338-3109 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top