Last Modified: Sunday, October 14, 2012 7:19 PM
We’ve got good news and bad news. The good news: the number of rear-seat passengers killed in Louisiana crashes fell to 34 in 2011, a 10-year low. The bad news: that’s still 34 too many.
The LSU Highway Safety Research Group credits the fall in deaths to the Louisiana Legislature’s passage of a law in 2009 that broadened the state’s seat belt use requirement to include rear-seat passengers.
“While one or two years does not make a trend, we are most pleased that the fatality rate for rear-seat passengers fell so significantly in the second full year following passage of the law,” Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, LHSC executive director, told the American Press. “The intent of the law is to save lives and we are hopeful that what we experienced in 2011 will continue.”
Before the Legislature approved the law, LeBlanc said, there were no signs of any significant change in rear-seat deaths.
In fact, a 2009 study by LSU found that, if the state had a mandatory seat belt law for back-seat passengers, annual deaths would drop by 22. Backers of the law also said it would trim the risks to front-seat passengers since unrestrained riders in the back can become like a projectile in a crash.
The risk of death for drivers and front-seat passengers increased about five-fold when rear-seat occupants were unrestrained, a separate study concluded.
Crash data compiled by the LHSC shows that 60 rear-seat passengers died in crashes in 2002 and 52 died in 2008 — the last full year before the law was approved. Forty-four people were killed in 2009, and 52 died in 2010.
“Seat belts are proven lifesavers, but they don’t do much good if they go unused by drivers and passengers,” LeBlanc said. “The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission encourages all vehicle occupants to always buckle up.”
And if they don’t click it, they will get a ticket.
The state has a “primary enforcement” law, meaning officers can ticket passengers they see violating the seat belt law.
And they absolutely should give tickets. There is no excuse for not wearing a seat belt.
The state’s seat belt usage statistics will only rise as a result of residents making a conscious decision to buckle up each time they enter a vehicle.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.