Seat belt usage in Virginia reaches record high

PHOTO: Samantha Zarek

WASHINGTON COUNTY, VA - According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt users are 45-percent less likely to be fatally injured during a crash. 30-percent of drivers and passengers who are not wearing a seat belt are ejected from their vehicles, and 80-percent of those ejected lose their life.

Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman says seat belt usage in Virginia is at a record high for a couple important reasons.

"I think it's due to strict enforcement, and I think it's due to public awareness through the media, and other avenues of getting the word out," Sheriff Newman says.

In the state of Virginia, police can't pull you over for not wearing a seat belt.

"It's a secondary offense meaning I need another reason to initiate a traffic stop, even though I see the seat belt's off, if I don't have any other reason to stop the vehicle, I can't stop it," says Washington County Deputy Seth Sparks.

Sheriff Newman says wearing a seat belt should become routine when getting into the car.

"It's like getting up in the morning and taking a shower, putting on your clothes, things of that nature, brushing your teeth. It's a habit that we all need to get into, utilizing seat belts," he says.

One Virginia driver says seat belt usage is mandatory in his vehicle.

"We don't even start the car until the seat belts are locked. We've had some friends and our family say the kids won't wear the seat belts, well then the car won't start," says James Davis.