Non-Seatbelted Deaths Cause Big Trouble in Virginia

By: Bridget Clerkin August 24, 2018
The Old Dominion is seeing a troubling rise in the number of fatalities among young drivers not wearing a seatbelt.
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Virginia may be for lovers, but an alarming number of state residents have shown nothing but disdain for roadway safety rules this year.

Since January alone, the number of 15- to 20-year-olds who have died in car accidents while not wearing their seatbelts has increased by 100 percent. All told, 18 young drivers and passengers lost their lives while unbelted in the first 6 months of this year, compared to 9 in all of 2017.

Though the overall number of deaths may be small, they ring especially tragic as the best method of prevention is so simple, said Shannon Valentine, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation.

“We must find a way to reverse this startling trend,” she told reporters at the state’s ABC affiliate. “Simply by wearing your seatbelt, you can reduce the risk of dying in a vehicle crash by 45 percent.”

But it’s not just the youngest motorists in Virginia who have failed to heed that advice.

Among 21- to 35-year-olds, the death rate while not wearing a seatbelt is up 34 percent, with 55 deaths in the first 6 months of 2018, compared to 41 in the first half of last year.

And the beginning of this year has already matched the total unbelted death rate for all of 2017, with 138 people losing their lives on the road after failing to use the safety strap.

It seems that seatbelt avoidance has been an ongoing issue in the Old Dominion State. Last year, 52 percent of the 843 people who died were not buckled up. The year also saw an overall increase in the total number of roadway deaths, a 10.8 percent increase from 2016.

A chance to help correct the issue was also thwarted in January of this year, when the state senate rejected a bill that would have made failing to buckle up a primary offense. The measure would have required backseat passengers to belt in, as well, and allow police to specifically pull over drivers for not wearing a safety strap.

Instead, Virginia currently calls for all drivers and front seat passengers to wear a seatbelt, though not doing so is considered a secondary offense. Drivers must be pulled over for another reason in order to receive a ticket for not buckling up.

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