Half of the 416 passengers killed in Colorado auto accidents in 2017 were not wearing a seat belt.

Yet more can be done to reduce the risk of auto accident injuries in our state.

In July of this year, the Colorado State Police worked with several rural law enforcement agencies for nearly a week to target drivers in rural areas who were not wearing a seat belt. Officers issued nearly 780 tickets.

The campaign was inspired by evidence that rural drivers were ignoring seat belt laws at a higher rate than urban drivers. The good news is that in more populated areas in Colorado, a growing number of vehicle passengers have been buckling up. Safety officials won’t be satisfied until 100% are doing so 100% of the time.

Increased Seat Belt Use in 2018

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), seat belt use in the state is two percent greater to date in 2019 than it was by the same time in 2018. Although the two percent increase may seem minor, CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew says that the increase nevertheless improves the state’s seat belt usage to 88.3 percent, closer to the national average of 90 percent.

“We are pleased to see a record share of Coloradans buckling — with a meaningful increase of 2 percent in the past year. Buckling your seat belt can be a lifesaving decision, and we encourage both drivers and passengers to stay focused on safety so we can continue to improve over the year to come.”

Some counties, including counties in and around Denver, boast a 90 percent or higher rate of compliance. In other counties, compliance is much lower; for example, Moffat County can report only 71.4 percent compliance.

If you’re involved in an auto accident in Colorado, wearing a seat belt reduces the chances that you will be seriously injured or killed. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that in 2017 alone, seat belts saved 14,955 lives. Yet according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the 37,133 people killed in vehicle accidents in 2017, almost half, 47 percent, were not wearing a seat belt.

Relatively Lenient Seat Belt Laws in Colorado

Colorado is one of the few states where you can’t be ticketed for neglecting to wear a seat belt unless you are pulled over for some other traffic infraction. The state has what is called a secondary law for persons older than 18. The law applies regardless of where one is sitting in the car. Although law enforcers in Colorado emphasize that states with primary seat belts laws have reduced traffic deaths, some states still refuse to enforce stricter seat belt laws.

At the National Conference of State Legislatures last year, Colorado was one of six states debating whether to impose stricter regulations. But Utah was the only state to follow up by making it easier to fine persons caught not wearing a seat belt.

Regardless of the law, everyone should buckle up when riding inside a vehicle. It only takes a few seconds to fasten a seat belt.

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