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Miss. seat belt usage jumps, but ‘too many’ fatalities continue

February 10, 2010

Miss. seat belt usage jumps, but ‘too many’ fatalities continue

STARKVILLE, Miss.–Results from a new Mississippi State survey indicate that law enforcement is causing the state’s residents to take seat-belt usage more seriously.

Completed in late 2009, the Mississippi Safety Belt/Motorcycle Helmet Survey was a cooperative effort of the university’s nationally recognized Social Science Research Center, and the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety and Mississippi Department of Public Safety.

The report finds that slightly more than 76 percent of Mississippi residents contacted said they now use seat belts–an improvement from the 2008 survey’s 71.3 percent.

The “significant increase” most likely can be attributed to the work of law enforcement officers throughout the state, said project director David Parrish, an SSRC senior research associate.

“Their constant emphasis on Mississippi’s primary seat belt law continues to save countless lives year after year,” Parrish observed.

The survey data also shows that passenger car drivers wear seat belts 78.6 percent of the time, while pickup truck usage is only at 69.1 percent.

“Though pickup trucks were the vehicles with the lowest usage rate, this is an increase of 6.8 percent over the 2008 rate of 62.3 percent,” Parrish explained.

Also:

–By gender, male seat-belt usage in the categories of African American, Hispanic and Caucasian trails females by 5-10 percent;

–Motorcycle helmet use remains at 97.7 percent, where it has been, or higher, for many years.

Parrish said the 2008 state traffic fatality rate–the most recent complete data–shows 26.65 deaths per 100,000 residents, which is 117 percent higher than the 12.25 percent national average.

As a result of this “sad and astounding” figure, residents “must continue to be challenged” to increase seat belt usage, he emphasized.

“There were 783 fatalities in Mississippi in 2008, and so very many may have been avoided if seat belts had been in use,” Parrish said.

Complete survey results may be viewed on the Public Safety Data Laboratory Web site, http://psdl.ssrc.msstate.edu.

NEWS EDITORS/DIRECTORS: For more, contact Parrish at 662-325-8116 or david.parrish@SSRC.msstate.edu; or Jon Kalahar, MDPS public affairs director, at 601-987-1390 or jkalahar@mdps.state.ms.us.

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