SALEM, Ore. - A statewide observation survey from last June found 98 percent of Oregon's motoring public using safety belts, making Oregon one of the two highest belt use states in the country.
Still, in 2012, 61 of Oregon's 198 occupant fatalities were reportedly unrestrained.
During a national "Click It or Ticket" campaign May 19 - June 1, Oregon State Police will join officers from Oregon law enforcement agencies focusing on safety belt use, including proper restraints for child passengers, use in pickup trucks and use during nighttime travel.
The Oregon Department of Transportation provides grants for overtime safety belt enforcement campaigns, and ODOT's Occupant Protection Safety Manager Carla Levinski said that consistent messaging about the need to buckle up everyone properly on every trip is critical.
"The greatest danger to unbelted children and adult occupants is ejection from the vehicle," Levinski said. "Unbelted or improperly restrained occupants are five times more likely to be ejected than one who is belted, and the odds of surviving ejection are estimated at one in four - compared to a one in two hundred fatality rate for occupants who remain inside the vehicle."
Ejection is also the principal reason that minors are prohibited from riding in an open bed of a pickup truck.
In fact, studies show that consistent safety belt usage is the single most effective way to protect against injuries or death in a motor vehicle crash. Research shows that most of Oregon's unbuckled fatalities occur from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. on the weekends, and on late weekday afternoons.
Using the right passenger restraint system - and using it properly - is the key to safety.
For child safety seats, follow the manufacturer's instructions or attend a free child safety seat clinic (see below for resources).
For adults, "proper use" means the lap belt is placed low across hips with the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest over the collarbone. Belts should be free of slack and lying flat with no twists or knots.
If the shoulder belt portion of the belt rides up onto the neck or feels uncomfortable, comfort may be increased by using the built-in adjuster or by moving seat position.
The shoulder belt should NOT be placed under the arm or behind the back - this can cause serious internal injuries or ejection in a crash.
For child passengers, Oregon law states the following:
* A child weighing less than 40 pounds must be properly restrained in a child safety seat.
* A child under one year of age or weighing less than twenty pounds must be restrained in a rear-facing child seat.
* A child over forty pounds but under age eight or less than 4' 9" tall must be restrained in either a child seat with harness system or in a booster seat that raises the child up so that a lap and shoulder belt system fit correctly.
For help with child seats, refer to the seat manufacturer's instructions, vehicle owner's manual, or your local child seat fitting station. A list of fitting stations can be found at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/apps/cps/index.htm or at http://oregonimpact.org/car-seat-resources/.
Law enforcement agencies from Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties are joining the State of Oregon in a 14-day traffic enforcement blitz dedicated to night time/daytime safety belt usage and prohibition of minors in open pickup beds from May 19 through June 1.
Local agencies involved in the increased enforcement include the Bend Police Department, Crook County Sheriff's Office, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Oregon State Police, Prineville Police Department, and Redmond Police Department.
Participating agencies will provide regular and overtime enforcement focused on night time/daytime belt use and other moving violations. The enforcement is funded by overtime funds through the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Speeding and driver impairment are the most common causes of injury crashes. Oregon's safety belt overtime enforcement program is committed to reducing crashes and crash injuries by promoting safety belt use and discouraging speeding and impaired drivers. According to the US Department of Transportation, consistent vehicle restraint use is the single most effective way to protect motor vehicle occupants from crash injury or death.
This will be the second of three seatbelt blitzes to be performed in 2014.