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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Seatbelt regulation gains strength

Motorists violating Ohio’s child passenger and seatbelt laws over the next month should expect to get a ticket. From May 24 to June 6, Ohio law enforcement officers will adopt a zero tolerance policy for violators of the state’s laws.

The stepped up enforcement is part of the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign, as well as the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s “What’s Holding You Back?” campaign.

In a statement released May 18, Bowling Green Police Chief Thomas E. Votava made the reasons for the policy clear: “Last year, more than half of all Ohioans who died on our roadways in motor vehicle crashes were unbuckled. While a seat belt may not have prevented all of these deaths, experts predict it would have saved many.”

However, some motorists disagree with such a stance, citing personal freedom and instances where seatbelts have caused injury or death, rather than prevented it.

“It should be a matter of individual choice, just as cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption is–not regulated or mandated by the government,” said Emily Shreve, a licensed driver and junior majoring in English. “People have had bad experiences with seatbelts, and it should be their choice to decide from their own experience, whether or not they wish to wear it.”

Instances where seatbelts cause injury in an auto accident, while rare, usually occur when the belts prevent a driver or passenger from leaving a vehicle engulfed in flames or submerged in water, as stated by Lt. Bradley Biller, public information officer for the Bowling Green Police Division.

Mike Skulina, an attorney with the University’s Student Legal Services, believes that seatbelts save far more lives than they take.

“I’m sure there’s incidents where that can happen, but I think they pale in comparison to the amount of injuries or deaths caused by ejection,” Skulina said about seatbelt-related injuries.

Biller agrees, stating that “there’s overwhelming data, overwhelming evidence, that seatbelts save lives, seatbelts reduce injuries. Any circumstance that you can enter there’s always going to be a negative side to it… but if we look at playing the odds, or if we look at the percentages as they relate to people benefiting from seatbelts, they so significantly outweigh those incidents were people have suffered further injury or death as a result of wearing seatbelts.”

According to Biller, motorists who feel seatbelt crimes are victimless should look at the bigger picture.

“If you suffer greater injury, you’re going to cost more to the insurance company, and/or the hospital, and/or the community at large by not having worn your seatbelt…the expansion of that idea goes all the way to NHTSA,” Biller said.

According to both Skulina and Biller, not only should motorists wear their seatbelts to prevent injury or death, but they should also wear them to prevent facing hefty fines.

While an officer cannot pull a driver over for failure to use a seatbelt, if the driver is pulled over for another reason, such as a moving violation, the driver and the passenger can be cited under Ohio’s seatbelt laws.

If the driver of a car is unbuckled when pulled over, the officer can issue a citation to the driver for $66. The driver can also be cited for an unbuckled front seat passenger and/or a child not properly restrained in any seat of the car.

An unbuckled front seat passenger can face a fine of $56.

“So conceivably if we have two people in the front seat of a car, just driving down the road and commit some type of a violation or are otherwise subject to being stopped by a police officer, if those people were found not to be wearing their seatbelts we could issue, just for the seatbelt violations, up to three tickets,” Biller said.

“They’re not gonna get the break. They’re not going to get the warning. Not only are you running the risk of a hassle that is the extra $60, but you’re also running the risk that safety belts do work,” Skulina said.

The campaign has generated a significant amount of success since its inception last year.

An observational survey conducted by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office at the end of last year’s campaign found that Ohio’s seatbelt usage rate reached an all time high of 74.7 percent.

“Personal freedoms aside, when the legislature has determined that the greater public good is served by enforcement of this statute, you really don’t have an excuse for not wearing your seatbelt. Especially when the incidents of it causing more harm than good are so minimal,” Skulina said.

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