Seat belt use, citations rise in Kansas

WICHITA, Kansas – Traffic deaths are on the rise this year when compared with the record low number of deaths on Kansas roadways last year. Meanwhile, the number of tickets being written for seatbelt use is also on the rise in a joint effort to slow down what police call preventable deaths.

According to Kansas Department of Transportation, seatbelt use is on the rise in Kansas, nearing the national rate of 85% percent last year. the sobering fact remains, those who don’t use a seat belt are much more likely to die in when they are involved in a crash.

The latest tragedy where crash victims were not wearing a seatbelt is a recent reminder of how important buckling up can be.

“If these occupants would of been restrained obviously we don’t know if the outcome would of been change but a lot of the crashes we’ve seen, they’ve been fairly violent crashes but if the occupant would of stayed in the vehicle the vehicle had survivable space,” Kansas State Trooper Gary Warner.

Through the first half of this year, traffic deaths are up by more than 30 from a year ago during the same 6 month span. Troopers say that doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend.

“I would say that’s probably just an anomaly,” Warner said.

Lt. David Mattingly with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office says it may seem like attention is shifting to curb distracted driving, including texting. But according to KDOT, the federal money used on seatbelt campaigns remains relatively unchanged since 2004.

“Texting seems to be the big thing in the news you see a lot but that’s a difficult statistic for us to track while seatbelt is a little bit easier,” said Mattingly.

According to the most recent numbers, more than 60% of victims in traffic deaths were not wearing seatbelts.  226 died while not wearing a seatbelt during a crash in 2004, spiking again in 2010, with 205 deaths.

In Sedgwick County alone, the number of citations written for not wearing a seatbelt has nearly doubled in the last 4 years. More tickets have been issued so far in 2014 than in all of 2010.

“Is that because we’re being more proactive, could be or is it because people are not still wearing their seatbelt it’s tough to understand that statistic but you hit the nail on the head, the fact that we’re writing 2,200 citations in 2013 that’s a scary statistic for us,” Mattingly said.

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