Oregonians click it: No. 1 in seat belt usage

SALEM, Ore. - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released its 2013 analysis of motorists and passengers using safety restraints, and Oregon topped the list with 98.2 percent usage.

The results are from probability-based observational surveys conducted by 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories.

"This is outstanding news for Oregon and Oregonians," said Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett. "Even better is the fact that we're seeing the impact of wearing safety belts in the reduced numbers of people being injured or killed in crashes on our roads."

In 2012, 61 of the 198 passenger motor vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seatbelts. In 2011, that number was 99 of 226 occupants killed.

The unbuckled fatality trend is going downward, but safety advocates won't stop delivering their messages until that number is zero.

"We still have to be vigilant about buckling up," Garrett said. "Putting your young passenger in the wrong restraints or forgetting to buckle up is just too big of a risk."

ODOT's Occupant Protection Program Manager Carla Levinski shared the record-setting news with safety advocates on Wednesday, and urged them to continue their work.

"We have over 400 child passenger safety technicians, teaching people in their communities how to properly install and use safety seats," she said. "Let's celebrate our success – and then keep up the great work."

Other partners in making travel as safe as possible include Oregon law enforcement agencies, emergency responders and the engineers who design roads.

"This really is a team accomplishment," Levinski said. The NHTSA report shows that over the years, observed seat belt use in Oregon has grown from 94.1 percent in 2006 to 2013's record 98.2 percent.

Through June 1, ninety law enforcement agencies around the state are participating in the nationwide Click It or Ticket campaign. The next one will be in August.

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