COLUMBIA — Boone County drivers and passengers are more likely to buckle up than other Missourians, according to recent studies.
Although statewide seat belt usage dropped 1 percentage point this year, seat belt usage in Boone County increased 2.3 percentage points, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Missouri Safety Center.
The department of transportation and the Missouri Safety Center observed 76 percent of Missouri drivers and passengers wearing seat belts during a week-long survey from June 7 to June 13.
In Boone County, 89.9 percent — the highest since the surveys began in 1998 — were buckled up. The national average for seat belt use was 84 percent in 2010, according to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.
The survey, which was conducted at 460 locations, included more than 126,419 observations of drivers and passengers. Twenty-three of the locations were in Boone County, with most of the points along Interstate 70 between Columbia and Rocheport, Sandra Hentges of the Missouri Coalition of Roadway Safety said. There were more than 7,000 observations in Boone County.
Folks buckling up more often, Columbia Fire Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said, means using fewer resources that could be for other emergencies.
“When people take proper precautions like buckling up, it can reduce severity of injuries," Sapp said. "You buckle up and have a crash and nobody’s injured, and it’s a law enforcement matter only. You don’t buckle up and have an injury-crash, and the fire department and EMS respond."
Boone County drivers and passengers are also more likely be wearing seat belts in vans and sports utility vehicles than cars and trucks. People in trucks were least likely to wear seat belts.
It is illegal not to wear a seat belt, Melissa Black of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety said, but a driver cannot be pulled over just for not wearing one.
The maximum fine for not wearing a seat belt in Missouri is $10, Lieutenant John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.
“Last year in our state, we had over 800 fatalities and a majority of the folks were not wearing seat belts – 67 percent out of 878 fatalities. A lot of those folks' lives may have been saved,” Black said.