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Greg Webb
Greg Webb
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Use of Seat Belts by Drivers and Passengers in Rural Virginia at All Time Low

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According to recent reports, rural Virginians are behind the rest of Virginia in their use of seat belts, and the Commonwealth’s traffic accident statistics show that many fatalities are unbelted drivers and passengers. During a five-year period from 2007 through 2012, 1,677 people died in traffic accidents who were not wearing seat belts.

A statewide survey indicates that 86 percent of Virginians wear seat belts, while in rural Virginia (west and north of Richmond) only 76 percent of people who travel by car wear seat belts, compared with a national average of 84 percent seat belt use. John Saunders, director of Virginia’s Highway Safety Office, finds rural Virginia’s statistics "unacceptable." (The Washington Post, 2/24/13) Old Dominion University associate professor Bryan Porter, who directs Virginia’s seat belt use survey annually, uses the results to evaluate and create highway safety programs. Porter’s statistics show that in rural areas of Virginia, people wear their seat belts five to ten percent less often than in urban Virginia. (The Washington Post, 2/24/13)

The fine in Virginia for not wearing a seat belt is a mere $25, the fourth-lowest fine in the United States, and a seat belt violation is considered a "secondary" offense. Police may only ticket a driver if they first witness a primary offense, such as speeding or running a red light. Jonathan Adkins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, believes it is more difficult to get people to use seatbelts in rural areas and would like to see Virginia strengthen its seatbelt law and make it tougher on scoff-laws. (The Washington Post, 2/24/13)

I ask many physicians what is one of the best things a person may do to live longer, and one of the most common answers is: wear your seatbelt. Many doctors think this is as important as eating well, exercising, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation. That ought to tell you something important.