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Can Colorado Do More To Encourage Seat Belt Use?

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CDOT seat belt billboard

CDOT seat belt billboard, courtesy CDOT’s Facebook page

Colorado is not one of the 28 states that require people to wear seat belts in the back seats of cars, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, (GHSA). In fact, except for people under age 18 (for whom buckling up is a primary enforcement law), Colorado’s seat belt law is a secondary law, meaning that law enforcement officers can only issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt if there is “another citable traffic infraction,” GHSA writes.

As this blog has written, “Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, a national coalition of insurance, consumer, health, safety and law enforcement organizations, has urged Colorado lawmakers to pass a primary enforcement seat belt law, as Jeffrey Leib has reported for the Denver Post.” Seat belt laws are in the news following the recent traffic accident in which math genius John Nash Jr. and his wife, Alicia, were killed in a New Jersey taxi crash in which they were not wearing seat belts.

In an editorial appearing on NJ101.5, Steve Trevelise writes:

Much has been made about the fact that neither  “Beautiful Mind” mathematician John Nash nor his wife were wearing seat belts when the cab they were riding in hit a guardrail ejecting them from the vehicle and killing them. The fact that the accident happened during the “Click It Or Ticket” campaign has also been brought up. One question I have is why weren’t they wearing it? Especially since New Jersey law requires seat belts for all passengers in the front and rear seats, one would think this would apply to passenger vehicles like cabs as well.

Inside Edition writes: “Experts hope that the deaths of the couple who inspired [the movie] A Beautiful Mind, will remind everyone yet again what’s at risk when they neglect to buckle up.” The Nash tragedy is just the latest car accident in the news in which people were killed or seriously injured when not wearing seat belts as passengers. In 1997, Princess Diana was not wearing her seat belt in the back seat of her chauffeured sedan in the crash that killed her, IE notes. 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon was not wearing his seat belt when he was killed in February on New York City’s West Side Highway while riding in the back seat of a Town Car; and actor/comedian Tracy Morgan was not wearing a seat belt when he suffered “grievous injuries” in a limo van that was struck by a Wal-Mart truck last summer, as IE writes.

Some Coloradans have not been too welcoming of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s seat-belt billboard campaign, as Michael Roberts writes for Westword. The campaign features such phrases as “Life or Death,” “Windshield Ejection,” and “Brain Damage,” he notes. Visitors to CDOT’s Facebook page were not shy about airing their outrage about the campaign, Roberts writes. In addition to quoting several commenters who used harsh language, Roberts reports that one commenter wrote,How about ‘Stop reading our signs and watch out for potholes we are not fixing because we spent all our money on signs.’ ” Another commenter wrote: “I don’t bother looking at lame signs, I barely look at street signs,” as Roberts reports.

Colorado’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign urging people to buckle up is not the only such campaign, of course. In Utah, the state Highway Patrol is asking people to wear seat belts after a deadly holiday weekend in which there were nearly 200 crashes in that state, including one fatality, as Kirsten Nuñez writes for Fox13now.comAnd in Nebraska, the Department of Health and Human Services is launching a “Seat Belts Are No Accident” campaign featuring newspaper ads showing people buckling themselves or family members into seat belts while thinking of others, writes Jay Withrow for Utah does have primary seat belt laws covering all ages and all seats of cars, GHSA reports. Nebraska has only a secondary seat belt law, and like Colorado’s, it requires only front seat passengers to buckle up, according to GHSA.


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