ST. GEORGE — Seat-belt use in Washington County lags behind other urban Utah counties surveyed this year by the state Department of Public Safety.
About 83 percent of drivers and passengers buckled up when traveling in Washington, according to the study. Four of the other five urban counties surveyed – Cache, Davis, Salt Lake and Weber – were above 91 percent; Utah County was 89.9 percent.
Drivers and passengers in urban areas (91 percent) tend to use their seat belts more than those in rural areas (82.7 percent), the study found.
In Iron County, 76 percent buckled up.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires each state to study seat-belt use within a geographic area that accounts for at least 85 percent of the passenger vehicle crash-related fatalities. The survey is administered by the DPS Highway Safety Office and a report on its results was posted on the agency’s website this month.
Seventeen of Utah’s 29 counties were included in the survey: Box Elder, Cache, Carbon, Davis, Grand, Iron, Millard, Salt Lake, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Summit, Tooele, Uintah, Utah, Washington and Weber.
“This study has been the cornerstone for developing, implementing and evaluating occupant-protection programs in the state,” the report said.
Overall, across the counties surveyed, 88.8 percent of drivers and passengers this year were wearing seat belts, an increase of nearly 1 percent over 2016. Washington County, likewise, showed an increase of almost 1 percent, while Iron County was up 2.2 percent.
Salt Lake County had the highest rate of seat-belt use at 92.4 percent. San Juan County had the lowest at 67.6 percent.
When the Office of Highway Safety conducted its first survey in 1986, seat-belt use was 18 percent.
The state made seat-belt use mandatory in May 2015.
In addition to differences between rural and urban counties, the survey found variances in seat-belt use for gender, vehicles and roads.
Overall, women (91.6 percent) generally buckle up more often than men (84.8 percent). Only in Millard and San Juan counties did men use seat belts at a higher rate than women.
In Washington County, 87.3 percent of women use seat belts compared to 79.3 percent of men. In Iron County, it’s 83.3 percent and 69.4 percent, respectively, the second-largest gender gap among the counties surveyed.
Van occupants had the highest rate of seat-belt use, while SUV and car occupants were just behind – but all were over 90 percent. People in trucks, however, buckle up 81.5 percent of the time. Statistics for vehicle type weren’t broken down by county.
More people used seat belts while traveling on highways (91 percent) compared to arterial roadways (87.6 percent) and local roads (84.1 percent). Statistics for roadway type weren’t broken down by county.
“The theoretical profile for the individual most likely to be wearing a seat belt in Utah in June 2017 would be a female passenger in a van on a primary road in Davis County,” the report noted. “The lowest seat-belt usage profile would be a male driving a truck on rural roads in San Juan County.”
The report also mentioned that several drivers of local and state government vehicles were observed not wearing their seat belt.
The survey was conducted June 5-17 at 10 sites in each county. Trained observers documented belt use and gender among the driver and front-seat passenger for a period of 45 minutes at each location. All passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight up to 10,000 pounds were included in the survey. A total of 31,724 vehicle occupants, including 24,526 drivers and 7,198 passengers, were observed.
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