|Delphos seat belt usage lowest in Allen County|
|Thursday, March 06, 2014 9:54 PM|
BY NANCY SPENCER
A survey done at the intersection of South Main and Suthoff streets in June 2013 revealed those driving vans were less likely to be belted at 68.4 percent versus cars at 73.3 percent, SUVs at 100 percent, light trucks at 78.6 percent and heavy trucks at 75 percent. Usage by men was lower than women at 72.3 percent compared to 76.3 percent. Those ages 26-64 were belted least at 72.2 percent, followed closely by those ages 15-24 at 79.2 percent and those over 65 at 75 percent.
The numbers were an improvement over September 2012 figures that showed those driving SUVs less likely to be wearing seat belts at 42.9 percent. Only one in two women were buckled in comparison to 80 percent of the men. While the youngest drivers were at the bottom with 50 percent, those ages 26-64 weren’t much better at 54.5 percent. All drivers ages 64 and older were buckled when passing through the intersection.
Also in the 2012 survey, the intersection at East Fifth Street and State Route 190 (Fort Jennings Road) was observed with those driving pickup trucks wearing seat belts the least at 41.7 percent. Men were less likely to buckle up at 58.2 percent versus women at 62.7 percent. Age also seemed a factor with drivers ages 15-25 belted at only 30 percent and with 60 percent of those 64 and older using the safety device.
Other survey sites of the 19 checked in Allen County in 2012 included the highest usage at St. Marys and Allentown roads with 95 percent and US 30 and SR 309 in Marion Township with 90.7 percent buckled. The least buckled behind Delphos were at the intersection of Broadway and North streets in Spencerville with 65.8 percent and Bentley and Augsburger roads in Bluffton at 69.2 percent.
Lima-Allen County Regional Planning Commission Associate Planner Evelyn Smith said the numbers are concerning.
“We need to find out why people who drive in Delphos are less likely to wear their seat belts compared to other Allen County drivers,” she said. “We all know it’s safer to wear them and it’s the law.”
Smith said many feel when driving in town at 25 or 35 mph, a seat belt isn’t necessary.
“We think we’re just running a quick errand or staying in town and don’t need to buckle up. I know there aren’t a lot of fatalities at 25 mph but it does happen. We also know 75 percent of accidents occur within 25 miles of home,” Smith said. “If you can get in the habit of putting on a seat belt when you get in the car — no matter where you’re going — you’ll have the benefits of the safety device when you need it.”
Smith heads a task force that includes local officials in Mayor Michael Gallmeier, Police Chief Kyle Fittro and Fire Chief Kevin Streets and administrators from both schools. The goal of the task force is to raise awareness of the importance of wearing a seat belt at all times. Ambassadors from both high schools are being sought to help stress the message to their peers, targeting increasing seat belt usage in young drivers shown the least likely to wear them.
Smith said young drivers often feel they are invincible but they aren’t alone on the roads.
“I took a young man around to talk at high schools about the importance of wearing a seat belt,” she began. “He had graduated from high school and was celebrating and driving and he came to a curve he wasn’t prepared for. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt and when he tried to make the curve, he slid into the passenger side of the front seat and was unable to get back into the driver’s seat. He remembers telling himself that if he could just get back behind the wheel, he could get control of his vehicle. The young man hit another car head-on, killing a woman, and he went to prison.”
Smith said the young man shared his story to encourage others to buckle up.
“The safest place to be during an accident is in the vehicle, in the driver’s seat. A seat belt will keep you there,” she added.