Colorado’s seat belt usage rates are below the national level -- how the state hopes to change that

Published: Jul. 24, 2022 at 12:43 PM MDT
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DENVER (KKTV) - Buckle up or pay up: Colorado law enforcement are cracking down on seat belt violations for the next couple of weeks.

“Colorado is behind the national trends when it becomes the seat belt use,” said Sam Cole with Colorado Department of Transportation. “The seat belt use rate in the state is 86 percent versus the national average, which is over 90 percent.”

In an effort to push more people to “click it,” there will be even more law enforcement out than usual handing out tickets to anyone caught driving without a seat belt. The enforcement campaign starts Monday and runs through August 5.

“Over the next couple weeks, we are going to see markedly increases enforcement of Colorado’s seat belt law, which means zero tolerance. If you’re pulled over and you’re found not to be buckled you will receive a citation,” Cole said.

Fines for not buckling up begin at $65, and parents or caregivers caught with an improperly restrained child could receive a minimum fine of $82.

Not wearing a seat belt can have far more dire consequences than monetary, Cole told 11 News.

“People who don’t wear their seat belts are about 14 percent of the people on our roads, yet they represent close to 50 percent of the fatalities on our roads,” he said.

So far in 2022, 118 people not wearing seat belts have been killed on Colorado roads, up slightly from last year.

A big problem when it comes to seat belt use is a false sense of security, Cole said. Among people surveyed by CDOT, many respondents acknowledged that they don’t see a need to wear seat belts if traveling a short distance. People also tend to feel safer when driving in a neighborhood or somewhere with a low speed limit.

“Even at speeds under 30 mph, you could suffer a severe or even a fatal injury,” Cole told 11 News. “A lot of people don’t understand that. A lot of people don’t understand that even at low speeds you can be severely injured or killed in a crash. A lot of people think that they’re just going down to the store in their neighborhood and therefore they don’t need to buckle up. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.”

At the upcoming Colorado State Fair, CDOT plans to have a booth to demonstrate how much force even a few miles per hour can be.

“We’re going to have one of these seat belt convincers [simulator] at the State Fair this summer. That’s a device that you actually ride on -- it only goes 5 mph, but when you’re unbuckled, it shows you just how much you’re thrown forward at just 5 mph.”

If that’s still not enough to convince you, CDOT hopes maybe a message now displaying at Rockies games will.

“At the recent Rockies game in Denver, we saw a lot of people noticing our big projection up there telling people that there’s a lot of baseball season left in Colorado and you’re gonna want to see it, so buckle up,” Cole said.

Protect your wallet, protect your loved ones, protect yourself. Make sure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up before you start driving. Not just these next two weeks, but year-round.

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