Tuesday, 9 March 2004 - 12:01pm |

Seatbelts in the spotlight

2 min read

Thirteen people killed on Waikato roads last year were not wearing a seatbelt – and at least eight of them could have survived.

Police say that in eight fatal road crashes last year, the victims could still be alive if they had been wearing their seatbelt. The statistics have come to light as police launch a major public awareness campaign targetting drivers and passengers who refuse to buckle up when they get in a car.

The month-long seatbelt campaign will see police throughout the Waikato district keeping a keen eye on motorists and passengers. There will also be specific checkpoints set up where police will check that everyone in a car is wearing a seatbelt.

Senior Sergeant Bruce Lyon says police are regularly dismayed at the number of people who refused to wear a seatbelt. “Some people think it is their God-given right not to wear one. Others just don’t see the need for them and think that nothing will happen to them if they are in a crash. And unfortunately, we are still seeing parents and adults who just refuse to restrain children. That is particularly worrying,” Mr Lyon said.

A national survey last year showed that the seatbelt wearing rate for drivers and adult front seat passengers was 92 per cent. Travellers on the open road and highways had a slightly higher wearing rate than those in urban areas. Men, particularly when travelling as passengers, were less likely to wear seatbelts than women. Ten per cent of male drivers were not wearing seatbelts, compared to only six per cent of female drivers.

The latest survey on rear seatbelts in 2002 showed that only 80 per cent of back-seat passengers were buckled in. The survey also found that only 87 per cent of children in the Waikato were restrained. At least 30 children killed in crashes nationally over the last 10 years would be alive today if they had been restrained.

Police estimate that each year, 40-50 lives could be saved in road crashes if people had worn their seatbelt. Research has shown that the risk of serious or fatal injury through not wearing a seatbelt is roughly equal for those in the back seat and those in the front.

Mr Lyon said drivers were less likely to wear their seatbelts if they were driving a short distance, especially around the city.

“People still think that they don’t have to put their seatbelt on if they are just nipping around the corner to the dairy. We come across countless cases where people have done just that and been seriously injured in a crash. Our message is that seatbelts should be worn at all times – no matter how far you’re going.”

Mr Lyon said police would be setting up seatbelt checkpoints outside supermarkets, schools and shopping centres – “anywhere that people congregate”.

Police youth education officers would also be visiting schools throughout the district to drive home the seatbelt message to both children and parents.

Drivers can be fined $150 for not wearing a seatbelt – but they must also take responsibility for others in their car. Drivers must pay a $150 fine for each passenger not wearing a seatbelt. There are no exemptions from wearing a seatbelt, except in rare medical circumstances.