NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- The latest statistics compiled by the state show that women continue to wear seat belts at higher rates than men, pickup truck drivers are the least likely to wear a belt, and Bennington County compliance is improving.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Program released on Monday the results of its latest Annual Seat Belt Survey. The survey was conducted by the Vermont Center for Justice Research in Randolph. Overall, statewide seat belt use fell half a percent from the 2011 rate down to 84.2 percent.
Like previous years, the survey was conducted during June and July at 82 pre-determined sample sites throughout the state. Data collectors used laptop computers and surveyed front seat occupants of all vehicles passing the locations.
Chittenden County had the highest rate of seat belt use in the 2012 survey at 88 percent. Franklin and Grand Isle counties had the lowest rate of use at 73.5 percent.
Bennington County showed the largest boost in seat belt use, an increase of 3.4 percent. Bennington County jumped to 85.6 percent, up from 82.2 percent in 2011. The survey found that 90.8 percent of female occupants were wearing seat belts. A lower percentage of males, 81.3 percent, were belted in the county.
Numbers varied by type of vehicle, too. 90.2 percent of occupants in cars were belted. As similar percentage of occupants were belted in vans and SUVs, at 89.8 percent and 87.4 percent, respectively. The compliance rate dipped dramatically for occupants of pickup trucks. Just 69.8 percent were belted.
"Males in a pickup truck are the biggest concern," said Bennington Police Lt. Lloyd Dean, who coordinates the annual Click it or Ticket campaign in Bennington County.
Dean said Bennington’s improved compliance with the state’s seat belt law is encouraging. It now matches the national average of 85 percent, he said.
"I’m happy with those numbers. They’re better than 2011," Dean said. "For Bennington County, I’m very happy with the percentage rates of seat belt use."
The state has seen a rash of fatal crashes in 2012. So far, 48 people have died on Vermont roads since the beginning of the year. State officials said 21 of the people who have died were not wearing a seat belt. Ted Minall, head of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, said the message remains simple.
"Please take that few seconds to buckle your seat belt every time you get into your car or truck. Wearing a seat belt will certainly improve your chances of surviving a motor vehicle crash," he said.