Oregonians' buckle-up rate hits 98 percent

But 2 of 5 who died over Fourth weren't wearing seat belts

SALEM, ore. - Preliminary reports show that two of the five people killed in crashes over the 4th of July holiday period were not using seat belts.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials say it's possible they would have died even if they had been wearing safety restraints. But they say statistics show you are five times more likely to be ejected in a crash if you are not wearing your seat belt. And the odds of surviving an ejection from a vehicle: just one in four.

Those stats prove: it's just not a risk worth taking.

And most Oregonians agree, it appears. Last week, ODOT's official 2013 safety belt use study results came out: it's now at 98.18 percent, compared to 96.82 percent in 2012, and up from 50 percent in 1990, when Oregonians voted in the seat belt law.

"That means more than 98 percent of the passengers observed over a period of time were wearing safety belts," said Carla Levinski, ODOT's Occupant Protection Program manager.

"We're very excited to see proof that all the education, enforcement, engineering and emergency response everyone is doing around the state is working – most of the time."

According to Levinski, there are several reasons for the commendable accomplishment:

-Increased participation by law enforcement agencies.

-Introduction of a national certification program for child seat technicians resulting in a statewide network of almost 500 active child passenger volunteers.

-Continual updates to Oregon's belt and child restraint laws by the legislature so that laws reflect national "best practice" recommendations, based on the latest research findings.

-A multi-media, statewide promotional campaign targeted at groups or geographic areas exhibiting the lowest belt use rates.

-Ongoing infrastructure investments focused on improving roadway safety.

-Improvements in vehicle safety restraint technology and vehicle crash worthiness.

Still, safety advocates point out how important it is to stay vigilant about buckling up: every trip, every time.

"We want to recognize and celebrate the fact that Oregonians are buckling up," Levinski said. "But we also want to emphasize how important it is to keep buckling up, ourselves and our passengers. One lost life is one too many."

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