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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Anne Readett OHSP
517-333-5317

MICHIGANíS NEW SEAT BELT LAW TURNS TWO

Belt use remains high; extra enforcement aims to push number higher

LANSING, Mich., March 4, 2002 Ė The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) announced today Michiganís safety belt use rate for 2001 remains high, at 82.3%. That figure is just short of last yearís record 83.5% rate, but a significant improvement over the 70% compliance rate in the state before the law took effect. The announcement of the new rate comes on the heels of the second anniversary of Michiganís standard safety belt law, which took effect on March 10, 2000. Through aggressive advertising and enforcement initiatives such as "Click it or Ticket," Michigan has retained most of the gains made in the first year.

During March, the Drive Michigan Safely Task Force will step up enforcement in an effort to increase usage rates even further. Nearly $1.479 million in federal funding has been provided this fiscal year to support special traffic enforcement efforts. A large portion of the funding has been allotted to additional patrols focused solely on seat belt enforcement within 18 Michigan counties. The counties that qualified for increased funding are: Bay, Calhoun, Genesee, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Muskegon, Oakland, Ottawa, Saginaw, St. Clair, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wayne.

Due to the significant increase in safety belt use, Michigan received an additional $5.2 million in federal funds this year. This money will be used for traffic safety related projects.

"Over the past two years, Michigan drivers have made great strides in their efforts to buckle up," said Major Tim Yungfer, Commander, Office of the Director, Michigan State Police. "There are still far too many -- two out of 10 -- who are not making buckling-up a habit. Buckling your seat belt should be the first thing you do when getting behind the wheel of a car."

The slight dip from last yearís record rate is not unexpected. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, it is common for states to experience a significant increase in usage rates upon introduction of the standard seat belt law, followed by a decline that remains higher than the pre-law usage rate. Michiganís goal is to reach 90 percent belt use by 2003, a milestone only Hawaii and California have reached thus far.

A telephone survey conducted by EPIC-MRA reports the most significant increase in self-reported seat belt usage since the implementation of Michiganís standard safety belt law came from Detroit drivers (with an increase of 28%), African-Americans (with a 17% increase), and young men (with a 9% increase). To continue these trends, Wayne County remains a focus of stepped-up enforcement efforts.

Michiganís standard enforcement safety belt law requires all front seat passengers be buckled up, all passengers under 16 be buckled up regardless of seating position, and all children under age 4 be in an approved child safety seat. It is also recommended that children who outgrow a child safety seat be properly fitted for a booster seat.

Michigan drivers pulled over for non-seat belt use can expect to pay tickets of $50 for non-belted drivers and passengers, and an average of nearly $95 for children under the age of four not restrained in a child safety seat.

"Click it or Ticket" is part of the Drive Michigan Safely Task Force, a collaborative effort between Michigan State Police, sheriff departments and local police agencies coordinated by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. The Task Forceís goal is to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in traffic crashes due to unbuckled motorists and impaired drivers through periodic stepped-up traffic enforcement.