In August 2020, MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office conducted its annual Roadside Observation Seat Belt Survey at 130 select sites in 13 jurisdictions. The survey observed more than 48,500 vehicles and found 89.9% of front-seat occupants were observed using a seat belt – a decrease from 90.4% and 90.3% in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
“Not only did we see the state’s seat belt use drop in 2020, we also saw an increase in the number of drivers killed who were unbelted,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “It is critical for every person to buckle up every time they are a vehicle, in every seat, for every ride.”
The latest survey also echoed the importance that every person in the car wear a seat belt in every seat. In vehicles where the driver was observed wearing a seat belt, 90.3% of passengers were buckled up as well. Conversely, in vehicles with unbuckled drivers, only 46.2% of passengers buckled up. Unbuckled passengers can become projectiles in a crash, causing serious or fatal injuries to themselves and others in the car. Occupants ejected from vehicles are 90 times more likely to be killed in the event of a crash.
In Maryland, every driver and passenger must wear a seat belt. Children younger than 8 must be in an appropriate booster or child safety seat unless they are 4 feet, 9 inches or taller. If passengers older than 16 are not wearing a seat belt, the driver can receive an $83 ticket for each offense.
The results from the seat belt survey add to a troubling trend on Maryland roadways since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite lower traffic volumes in 2020 – at times more than a 50% decrease compared to the previous year – Maryland still saw a year-over-year increase in fatalities. Initial police reports show increased speed, increased instances of impairment and lower seat belt use as the most common contributing factors in motor vehicle fatalities.
Law enforcement agencies across the region are kicking off the 2021 Click It or Ticket campaign today, and will conduct a multi-state “Border to Border” enforcement effort on May 24. Throughout the end of the May and into June, advertising will run locally and nationally on billboards, television, radio and online to spread awareness of stepped-up enforcement.
MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office will also promote its new campaign, Be the BUCKLED UP Driver, which focuses on excuses often used by drivers and passengers for not wearing a seat belt, and why they are not valid compared to the most important reason for wearing a seat belt: because it saves lives.
“It’s a simple fact that seat belts save lives,” said MDOT Secretary Greg Slater. “We are committed to raising awareness and encouraging all travelers on Maryland roads to put safety first, and we’re thankful our law enforcement partners across the state and region are helping us spread the message that your best defense in a crash is buckling up.”
Agencies participating in Click It or Ticket include Maryland State Police, Maryland Transportation Authority Police and Maryland Natural Resources Police, as well as the following agencies:
- Aberdeen Police Department
- Anne Arundel County Police Department
- Baltimore City Police Department
- Baltimore County Police Department
- Bel Air Police Department
- Berlin Police Department
- Calvert County Police Department
- Carroll County Police Department
- Cecil County Police Department
- Charles County Police Department
- Cumberland Police Department
- Denton Police Department
- Easton Police Department
- Frederick Police Department
- Fruitland Police Department
- Hagerstown Police Department
- Hampstead Police Department
- Harford County Police Department
- Howard County Police Department
- Ocean City Police Department
- Ocean Pines Police Department
- Prince George's County Police Department
- La Plata Police Department
- Montgomery County Police Department
- Mt. Airy Police Department
- Princess Anne Police Department
- Queen Anne's County Police Department
- Riverdale Police Department
- Salisbury Police Department
- Salisbury University Police Department
- Sykesville Police Department
- Talbot County Police Department
- Taneytown Police Department
- Westminster Police Department
- Wicomico County Police Department
- Worcester County Police Department
Officials are also reminding Marylanders to ensure they are using the right car seat for the age and weight of their child, and ensure it’s installed correctly. Agencies across the state, including the Maryland Kids in Safety Seats (KISS) program, offer virtual checks to teach parents and caregivers how to correctly use car seats. Any person can register for an appointment at mdkiss.org or by calling 800-370-SEAT (7328).
Learn more about MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.gov and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.