As the busy Memorial Day weekend approaches, extra officers will be patrolling Iowa’s highways and interstates for the next two weeks. The Special Traffic Enforcement Project (STEP) runs May 22 - June 6, 2017.

During the 14-day period, law enforcement agencies across the state will be placing an emphasis on seat belt usage. Figures show Iowa’s seat belt usage rate of 94 percent is one of the highest in the nation, but the remaining six percent of vehicle occupants account for approximately half of all traffic fatalities.

Using 2015 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau have released some statistics in order to bust a few myths concerning seat belts.

  • Pickup trucks will not protect occupants in a crash if they are not restrained. Figures show that 60 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed were not buckled up. That compares to 42 percent of passenger car occupants.
  • Where a person sits in the vehicle does not matter. Forty-seven percent of all front-seat occupants killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts, while 57 percent of those killed in back seats were unrestrained.
  • Country driving is not safer. Nationwide, there were 12,797 traffic fatalities on rural roads compared to 8,262 on urban streets. Fifty percent of those killed in rural crashes were unbuckled, compared to 46 percent in urban crashes.
  • According to the national numbers, young drivers are not invincible fatal accidents. The numbers show young drivers are dying at a disproportionate rate because they are not wearing seat belts, especially young males.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the busy summer season with many more families on the roads. Law enforcement officials remind everyone that the habit of buckling up is as simple as turning on a light switch. It should be an automatic action for the driver and all passengers in the vehicle.