Buckle Up stencil

Buckle Up stencil, image courtesy CDOT.

At a news conference Tuesday, the Colorado Department of Transportation unveiled a new strategy to raise public awareness of the need for people to wear seat belts in vehicles.

CDOT pointed out that as of September 20 this year, 147 people who were not wearing seat belts were killed in vehicle accidents in Colorado. The number of traffic fatalities increased this year, and that is no small statement, since the number was high for 2015. Moreover, the state’s rate of seat belt use is lower than it was last year.

Buckle Up Stencils

The news conference was held outside the McNichols Civic Center Building. New stencils have been painted on the sidewalks that surround Civic Center Park. The stencils represent the 147 victims of unbuckled crashes. Each stencil says: “Be a Survivor. Buckle Up,” and each stencil bears the number 147 in its center.

Sam Cole, CDOT communications manager, said:

On average, 16 percent of registered Colorado drivers, or more than 625,000 people, are not buckled up. We hope the visual representation with the stencils of lives lost will strike a chord and convince people to change their behavior and buckle up every trip, every time. It could save their life.

Although the stencils are temporary, they will stay around Civic Center Park for about two weeks.

Beware of the Beltless

CDOT introduced a related campaign, “Beware of the Beltless,” this summer. The campaigns are in response to a crisis in the state: 16 percent of people who do not wear seat belts in vehicles make up more than half of those killed in crashes. Some of the counties most in need of the message are Denver and Delta (where only 78 percent of people wear seat belts), Pueblo (where only 71 percent of people wear seat belts), and Baca (where only 64 percent of people wear seat belts). The national average for seat belt useage is 88.5 percent.

The department is continuing its public awareness campaign in 2017 to inspire more people to wear seat belts. It has set aside $300,000 for that, according to CBS Denver. The Beware of the Beltless campaign focuses on the little-known fact that not wearing a seat belt puts everyone else in the vehicle at risk because an unbelted occupant can become a projectile in an accident.

The campaign reaches out to the public in many ways, including paid advertising, community partnerships, attendance at community events, printed and digital educational materials, CDOT and HealthOne campaign-specific webpages, and press conferences and media relations.

Among the larger community partners are: the eight-hospital HealthOne network, Yellow Cab, JBS USA, Drive Smart Colorado, four major public school districts, and 19 law enforcement agencies statewide. CDOT estimates that the message has been viewed or heard more than 100 million times, via TV and radio ads, media stories, social media posts, participation in events, distribution of printed and digital educational materials, and 53 community partnerships.

CBS Denver quotes Sam Cole:

Looking at the sidewalk, when people see these stencils out there, and they see the number 147, we want them to really realize that that was somebody’s child, that was somebody’s brother, sister, mother, father. Those were real people and those were recent traffic fatalities and that is just this year.

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