A leading highway safety group wonders how much more it can do to get more Missourians to use their seat belts. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety says one percent more Missourians are using their seat belts this year than were using them last year. We’re up to 77 percent compliance with belt laws. But that’s seven points below the national average of 84 percent.
Spokesman Melissa Black thinks the organization has done about all it can in terms of education. But the one thing that could be done would be for the legislature to pass a primary enforcement seatbelt law that could increase usage up to 90 percent and cut deaths and injuries by the hundreds.
One group has a particularly low usage rate: Teenagers. Only 66 percent of them put on their belts. Some analysts say that’s partly because teenagers, as a group, seem to think they’re "bulletproof." Black argues, "Unfortunately (they’re) not windshield proof if they go through that or out their window."
Southwest Missouri is the most troublesome part of Missouri. People in ten southwest Missouri counties are no better than teenager. Black says much of the area, and rural people–especially those within pickup trucks—don’t wear seatbelts
She notes mandatory seat belt usage is one of 500 highway safety laws in Missouri, but the only one that does not let police enforce it unless there’s another offense committed too.