While the majority of Texans, around 91%, use seat belts while driving or riding as a passenger in moving vehicles, too many unbelted people continue to die in traffic accidents, the state’s transportation department says.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has reported that in 2019 there were 925 traffic fatalities involving an unbuckled driver or passenger, a 6% drop over the previous year. Although around 9% of Texans do not wear a seat belt, the lack of seat belt usage was reported in 42% of traffic fatalities for those people who had the option to use a seat belt (excluding pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle fatalities).
According to TxDOT, wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying by 45% for people in the front seat of passenger cars. For those in pickups, seat belts reduce the risk of dying by 60% since pickups are more likely to roll over than passenger vehicles.
A 2019 Texas A&M Transportation Institute survey noted that drivers and passengers in 18 Texas cities buckle up less at night (between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.) than during the day. In Texas last year, of crashes in which an unbuckled driver or passenger was killed, 59% happened during nighttime hours (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.). Seat belt use among pickup drivers and passengers also continues to lag behind that of other motorists. Almost 46% of the 499 pickup drivers killed in crashes last year weren’t buckled up.
Texas law requires everyone in a vehicle to be properly secured in the front or back seat or face fines and fees up to $200. Children younger than eight must be restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches. If a child isn’t secured, the driver faces fines of up to $250.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Click It or Ticket initiative in Texas is estimated to have saved more than 6,234 lives, prevented more than 100,000 serious injuries, and resulted in $23.6 billion in economic savings since the campaign began in 2002.
Nov. 7, 2000, was the last deathless day on Texas roadways, according to transportation officials.
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