SEARHC Study shows low seat belt use

December 27 2013

JUNEAU - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Tribal Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention Program completed an observation survey of vehicles in Juneau that showed even though the state of Alaska has a primary enforcement law on the books, allowing police officers to pull over drivers and issue tickets just because the drivers – or their passengers – are not wearing seat belts, our state capital still shows lower than average seat belt use among its Alaska Native population.

In the seat belt use study, SEARHC observers made 688 total observations in 41 locations (588 drivers, 100 passengers). The drivers used seat belts 76.7% of the time, passengers 66% of the time, for a total seat belt usage of 75.1%. The 75.1% total usage was lower than the city’s average of 81.6%, the state average of 85.7%, and the national average of 86%.
The program used procedures adapted from the Indian Health Service Ride Safe Program for its observational study, observing vehicles driving in areas of Juneau likely to have high Alaska Native/American Indian use (such as the roads to SEARHC or other tribal facilities).

According to the Centers for Disease Control seat belts dramatically reduce risk of death and serious injury. Among drivers and front-seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45%, and cut the risk of serious injury by 50%. Seat belts prevent drivers and passengers from being ejected during a crash. Those not wearing a seat belt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash and more than 3 out of 4 people who are ejected during a crash die from their injuries.

Increasing seat belt use is critical to reduce injury and saving lives and SEARHC has one more year in a four-year grant to increase seat belt use to 90%. To reach that goal, the high school buckle up campaigns and the support of the Click it or Ticket educational campaigns in Juneau will be instrumental.