Missouri seat belt usage rate still below national average

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JEFFERSON CITY - When it comes to buckling up, Missouri is still well below the national average.

That is according to a press release from the Missouri Department of Transportation. 

Data shows seat belt usage has slowly gone up over the past 17 years, but still lags behind the rest of the country.

81 percent of Missourians wear seat belts, compared to 90 percent around the U.S.

"Last year we had 943 people killed on Missouri roadways and 64 percent of those people killed were unrestrained," Missouri State Highway Sargent Scott White said. 

White said that is an alarmingly large number. 

"We really try to raise that awareness in convincing people that it really comes down to a mindset," White said. "Too many times people have that thought process of it is not going to happen to me and we just want people to know it can happen." 

White said people have to remember physics are involved in every accident. 

"If you have a 125 pound person traveling down the highway at 65 miles an hour and that car comes to an abrupt stop, what they feel is 8,125 pounds of crash force on your body," White said. 

The press release also said a Missouri's child safety seat survey showed 33 percent of children were not buckled up when the driver of the car was not. But when the driver was wearing a seat belt, 98 percent of kids were buckled up, too.

State and local law enforcement is teaming up with the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety for the national "Click it or Ticket" campaign from May 22 through June 4, going right through the Memorial Day holiday weekend. 

"The 'Click it or Ticket' is not only enforcement but it is also awareness, it is really to raise that awareness of how important wearing the seat belt is," White said. "Also we want to stress to parents that when you don't wear your seat belt you are sending a message to your children that it is also ok not to wear it." 

White said he always emphasizes just how important the seat belt is. 

"Seat belts don't save every single person in every single crash and they don't prevent crashes, but they can certainly predict the outcome," White said.