More Iowa motorists are deciding to wear a seat belt. A seat belt survey conducted by the Iowa State Patrol in July found 92.9 percent of the travelers in the state were buckled up. That marks a nearly two percent increase from last year’s survey.
In addition to the fact that fewer motorists are on Iowa’s roads because of high gas prices, public safety officials credit increased seat belt usage for a drop in this year’s traffic fatalities. Currently, Iowa is 13 percent below last year’s pace with 37 fewer fatalities to date.
Scott Falb of the Iowa Department of Transportation keeps track of Iowa’s "life toll" list – a count of the number of lives police believe were saved by the use of a seat belt. "We have 59 lives that we’ve added so far (this year)," Falb said. "That brings the total to 5,923 since the seat belt law took effect."
Iowa’s seat belt law took effect in July 1986. Since that time, Iowa has consistently placed in the top 10 among the 50 states for seat belt usage. Iowa is a "primary enforcement" state – meaning law officers can stop a motorist just for a seat belt violation. "More and more states are going the primary route," Falb said. "But there are still some states in the Midwest that do not have primary laws and they tend to track 10 to 15 percent lower in their seat belt surveys (compared to Iowa)."
The national average for seat belt use is 83 percent. Falb says the goal in Iowa is 100 percent. "You have to do more and more work to get people to buckle up, because it’s the hard-core folks that are resistant to buckling up that are the last ones you have to work at getting," Falb said.
Not wearing a seat belt is not only dangerous – it can be costly. A seat belt citation, with court costs, runs about $83.