The Missouri Department of Transportation Friday held one of their "quarterly occupant protection enforcement" days. The day-long effort is designed to remind motorists to obey seat belt laws in between the annual nationwide "Click it or Ticket" campaign.
Missouri's seat belt law is a secondary law, meaning that a driver has to be pulled over for a different traffic violation before being issued a seat belt violation.
"We work with law enforcement to coordinate and encourage them to step up their traffic enforcement for this day, whether it be on their own time or through overtime grants that we provide. And while they're stepping up their enforcement [we encourage them] to be sure they're enforcing the state seat belt laws," Scott Jones, a senior system management specialist at MoDOT, said.
The quarterly enforcements last only one day, during which around 60-100 law enforcement agencies report data to MoDOT. The last quarterly enforcement was in November.
"We had about 64, 65, agencies participating and reporting stats, and those that reported had about 200 safety belt and child restraint violations," Jones said.
The agencies also report violations like speeding and DWI's. During "Click it or Ticket," which will be from May 19 to June 1 this year, more agencies participate and the effort lasts longer so Jones says the numbers are substantially larger.
Although the latest data puts Missouri about seven percent below the national average for seat belt use, several mid-Missourians told KRCG 13 that they do buckle up.
"I've seen a lot of accidents, and [wearing a] seat belt's just the safer way to be. Better than eating the windshield," Columbia resident Melvin Hawkins said.
"I'm scared not to wear one. I've seen too many people who have had accidents and been really hurt that probably wouldn't have been if they'd been wearing their seat belt," Holts Summit resident Cheryl Graham said.
"Every time you see a rollover accident, usually they have not had their seat belts on and they have a fatality or serious injury. It really saves lives," Jefferson City resident Pat Joyce said.
And the crash statistics are startling.
According to MoDOT, while fatal crashes in Missouri are down nearly 26 percent from this same time last year, the percent of those killed that were unbuckled jumped from 56 percent to 71 percent.
Another troubling statistic; teen seat belt use in Missouri is only about 67 percent.
"They're only about nine or 10 percent of the drivers out there, but they represent over 25 percent of our crashes," Jones said.