When you're piling into the car for a Memorial Day road trip, make sure you start off by buckling your seat belt. This week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Roy LaHood announced the latest iteration of the Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement push, which will last until June 6.
Thirty states have what's called a primary seat belt law, which means police can pull you over solely for not wearing your seat belt; 19 other states have secondary laws that allow officers to write you a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. Some states fine nonbelted drivers up to $124 for a first offense.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, says the current usage rate is 84 percent nationwide, which strikes me as pretty high. I can't think of a safety device people have to consciously decide to use that has that high an adoption rate; bike helmets are only at 35 percent, according to a Gallup poll released in 2008.
But no matter how many tickets are written or how many hilarious local PSAs are aired, there are still some knuckleheads out there that don't buckle up. Looking at some of the NHTSA data, it seems like I'm squarely in the knucklehead demographic: Men ages 18 to 34 are less likely than the general population to use seat belts. Other nonclicking groups are pickup truck drivers, rural drivers and nighttime drivers, so if you're a young man driving a pickup truck through the country at night, don't be surprised if you're targeted for Click It or Ticket enforcement.
I'll admit that for really short trips, I sometimes don't bother. I'll be the first to admit it's idiotic, especially considering how effective the little buggers are. It seems almost absurd that for all the money we spend on high-tech air bags and crumple zones, that little strip of nylon is still the most effective car safety device around.
Do you always buckle up or do you sometimes get lazy?
(Hat tip to Liza Barth at Consumer Reports Cars Blog)