ARIZONA NEWS

Buckling up? Arizona cited for having lax seat belt laws

Nov 22, 2018, 3:00 PM
(Twitter Photo/@ArizonaDOT)...
(Twitter Photo/@ArizonaDOT)
(Twitter Photo/@ArizonaDOT)

WASHINGTON – The number of holiday travelers will be up this year in both the state and the nation, according to AAA, which estimates that 908,000 Arizonans will be among the 48.5 million Americans hitting the road for Thanksgiving.

That’s about a 5 percent increase over holiday travel last year for both the state and the nation. But that increase in traffic means more than just an increase in traffic jams – it means higher likelihood of accidents, which is why safety experts stress the need for seat belt use, particularly during the holidays.

“People are rushing around, they’re thinking about other things and they’re distracted. It’s crucial to be buckled up all the time,” said Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

But in Arizona, the decision to buckle up is a more personal one than it is in most states.

Arizona law does not require adults to buckle up in the back seat. And it is a “secondary enforcement” state, meaning that while police can cite a driver or front-seat passenger for failing to wear a seat belt, they can’t pull them over for it – they have to have stopped them for something else first.

Arizona is one of a handful of states with both secondary enforcement and back-seat exemptions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“You do have states that are enforcing primary seat belt legislation for front- and rear-seat passengers,” said Ann Kitch, a transportation research analyst at NCSL.

Ken Kolosh, statistics manager of the National Safety Council, said states like Arizona are going in the wrong direction with their seat belt laws.

“Buckled up in a passenger vehicle decreases your odds of dying by 45 percent,” Kolosh said. “Nothing is 100 percent effective, including seat belts, but seat belts nearly double your chance of surviving a crash.”

Alberto Gutier of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety agrees that seat belts save lives, and his office encourages all motorists to always wear their seat belts, to put children in car seats and to drive sober.

But he challenged the claim that Arizona is going in the wrong direction with its seat belt laws, noting that seat belt use has steadily risen in the state where seat belt use is “way ahead” of states with primary enforcement laws.

“Kansas, Arkansas and Mississippi, they all have primary seat belt law and, guess what? We beat them in the usage rate, we’re at 87 percent,” Gutier said.

Gutier said there are many factors that can contribute to a fatal accident, and lack of seat belts is just one of them.

“Seat belts is one of the items that we always talk about. When it comes to fatalities it is not only seat belts,” he said. “What happens with fatalities is, if someone is speeding, distracted or impaired and they’re not wearing a seat belt, it could be a fatality.”

The most recent report from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety said there were 962 motor vehicle fatalities in 2016, of which 329 were deaths of passengers who were not buckled up. Both the number of fatalities and the number of those victims were unrestrained at the time of the crash has risen steadily in recent years, as the number of people on the road in Arizona has risen.

Whether the law requires it or not, however, Rader said buckling up is important, even in the back seat. He said that when passengers do not buckle up in the back seat that they “essentially become a human missile” during a crash.

“You’re moving forward at tremendous force and … not only are you at high risk of injury yourself, but you’re also risking injury to the people in the front seat, even if they are belted,” Rader said.

Conrad Jackson, a paramedic engineer with the Prescott Fire Department, is among the emergency responders who are often the first at the scene of car crashes said he has seen the evidence firsthand.

“The number of individuals that have no injuries or minor injuries, front seat – back seat, it doesn’t matter,” Jackson said. “Seat belts save lives.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

FILE - Kari Lake, Arizona Republican candidate for governor, speaks to supporters at the Republican...
Associated Press

Lake seeks election records in suit against Arizona county

Kari Lake, the defeated Republican candidate for Arizona governor, has filed a public records lawsuit demanding Maricopa County hand over a variety of documents related to the election.
1 day ago
Carey Johnson and her son Fabian Swain are photographed wearing face masks in their Germantown, Md....
Associated Press

After a year, omicron still driving COVID surges and worries

A year after omicron began its assault on humanity, the ever-morphing coronavirus mutant drove COVID-19 case counts higher in many places just as Americans gathered for Thanksgiving.
1 day ago
(City of Mesa Photo)...
KTAR.com

Merry Main Street with ice rink, other holiday activities returns to downtown Mesa

Mesa's annual Merry Main Street begins Friday and will offer multiple holiday activities for the whole family to enjoy each day through early January.
1 day ago
Joaquin Santiago Orozco (Mesa Police Department Photo)...
KTAR.com

Mesa police involved in shooting with man who allegedly rammed them with vehicle

Mesa police were involved in a shooting with a man late Thursday night who allegedly rammed them with a vehicle after failing to stop for a civil traffic offense, authorities said.
1 day ago
Brian Hanrahan (Courtesy Photo)...
KTAR.com

Silver Alert canceled after missing 78-year-old man found safe

A Silver Alert was canceled Friday after a missing 78-year-old man last seen in Phoenix was found safe, authorities said.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/City of Mesa, Arizona Government, Pexels Photo)...
KTAR.com

Weekend guide: Here are the biggest events around metro Phoenix for Nov. 25-27

The holiday season is officially underway and there are plenty of events around the Valley this weekend to get into the festive mood.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Buckling up? Arizona cited for having lax seat belt laws