Texans are among the most safety-conscious drivers in the United States, according to results of a statewide safety belt-use survey conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).
In the 2008 survey, observers determined that an estimated 91.2 percent of all drivers and front-seat passengers in Texas buckled up. It’s the third year in a row that a 90 percent usage level has been reached. (A total of 11 states and Puerto Rico achieved safety belt use rates of 90 percent in 2007.)
“Texas first hit the 90 percent mark in 2006,” says Katie Womack, senior research scientist with TTI’s Center for Transportation Safety. “When we first conducted a safety belt survey in 1985 in 12 Texas cities, only 14 percent of drivers and passengers were buckled up. But after the safety belt law was enacted in 1985, the usage rate jumped to 65 percent.”
Womack and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) attribute a steady rise in the compliance rate since 2002 to the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign, which includes a series of public service announcements and stepped-up law enforcement efforts each May.
“We are extremely pleased with being recognized as one of the states with a 90 percent or higher safety belt use,” says Terry Pence, director of the Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT’s) Traffic Safety Section. “Although I think the figures are impressive in a state this size, we realize that we still have some work to do, especially with pickups.”
The survey conducted by TTI indicated that drivers and passengers of pickup trucks are the least likely to use a safety belt. An estimated 88 percent of pickup drivers and 78 percent of their passengers use them. According to Pence, future media campaigns will focus on increasing safety belt use in pickups.
The annual safety belt survey uses funds provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and administered by TxDOT. According to NHTSA, safety belt use doubles the chances of surviving a serious crash.
In Texas, 190 sites in 22 counties are observed by TTI employees, who conduct the survey each year by noting safety belt use for drivers and front seat passengers.