By Sara B. Hansen / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) With snow in the forecast and skiing or holiday trips on the horizon, now's the time to remember to use your seat belt.
Although 86.6% of Colorado drivers wear their safety belts, that's below the national average of 90.3%, according to a Colorado Department of Transportation safety report.
Statewide seat belt usage remained unchanged from 2020, but pickup truck drivers and their passengers got better at buckling up, so their average seat belt use increased by almost 10 percentage points from 78.3% to 88.1%.
2020 driving fatalities
In 2020, 612 people, including pedestrians, died on Colorado's roads. Of the fatalities, 365 rode in passenger vehicles, and 203 or 56% didn't wear seat belts.
Although more fatalities occur in summer (192 June-August 2020 compared to 110 January-March 2020), winter driving can still be hazardous. That's why it's crucial to follow winter driving safety tips and buckle up.
Preparing the study
To complete the study, CDOT observed 770 locations in 31 counties. The study included 119,842 cars, vans, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), and pickup trucks. During the past decade, seat belt use in pickups improved by 23%, from 71.7% to 88.1%. Simultaneously, the overall rate for safety belt use in all vehicles improved about 7%, from 80.7% to 86.6%.
Commercial vehicles have the state's lowest seat belt usage rate at 76.2% in Colorado.
"Surviving your holiday drive this year — and making it to the new year — can be as simple as buckling up," said CDOT's Office of Transportation Safety Director Darrell Lingk.
“If you’re ejected from your vehicle in a crash, the odds are you will not survive. Wearing your seat belt is the best defense against unexpected road hazards and the most effective way to survive a crash.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the risk of fatal injury drops by 45% when you wear your seat belt. For pickup truck occupants, safety belts reduce fatality risk by 60%.
Colorado's urban counties have a better seat belt use rate. That best counties include:
- Denver 95%
- Arapahoe County 95%
- Douglas County 91%
Meanwhile, the state's rural counties have lower use rates. The worst counties include:
- Weld County 72%
- Cheyenne County 72%
- Pueblo County 66%
The CDOT study also evaluated seat belt use compared to speed. The good news: People wore their belts more often when they drove fast. The bad news: They didn't at slower speeds.