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Nearly two-thirds of fatalities unbuckled

SeatBeltUsage.jpg (Statewide seat belt usage)“The kids! The kids!” Lindsey Patterson screamed as the car in the oncoming lane veered and came head-on toward the vehicle she was in with her two children.

In a matter of seconds, the vehicle she was riding in was on its side, following a multi-vehicle crash.

Fortunately for Patterson, her children and her significant other, Jason Levenhagen, they were wearing their seat belts and were uninjured.

“It was so scary,” Patterson said. “I was just thinking about the kids. We always wear our seat belts whenever we travel. If we wouldn’t have been wearing our seat belts, this crash would have been a lot worse.”

With the summer travel season starting, the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the Wyoming Highway Patrol are participating in the national May Mobilization campaign. From May 14 to June 3, Patrol and other law enforcement will be out enforcing seat belt laws and educating the public on the importance of wearing their seat belts.

Over a five-year period in Wyoming, proper seat-belt usage was 82 percent, misuse at 1 percent, no use at 5 percent and unknown at 12 percent, information from WYDOT’s Highway Safety program indicated. In 2017, about 79 percent of children were properly restrained.

In 2017, 62 percent of fatalities were not buckled while 1 percent were misusing their seat belts.

From 2012 to 2016, seat belts saved almost 67,000 lives, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated.

“We will have heavy enforcement throughout May Mobilization for seat belt use,” said Sgt. Kyle McKay of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. “You’ll not only see troopers, but also county sheriffs and city police departments. If you wear your seat belt properly and have your child in a proper child safety seat, you can reduce your chances of injuries and death.”

GoodIdea-Seatbelts.pngThat was the case for Patterson, Levenhagen and their children. The crash they were involved in occurred on May 2 as they were traveling on Converse Avenue in Cheyenne. Levenhagen, who was driving, saw a vehicle that was traveling in the oncoming lane swerve into their lane.

Levenhagen moved his vehicle to avoid the oncoming vehicle but couldn’t get out of the way entirely.

“The other vehicle clipped our vehicle,” Patterson said. “We were told our vehicle was airborne for about 10 feet. Then another vehicle hit us. We went through two impacts and were unharmed because we were wearing our seat belts.”

But that’s not the case for the majority of people involved in crashes who aren’t wearing their seat belts.

“The seat belt is designed to absorb the forces of the crash,” McKay said. “It has a three-point harness system, and the belt itself is actually strands that are woven together to stretch. When you are being forced forward or side to side within the vehicle, it’s absorbing that energy so your body’s not.”

Because seat belts save lives, McKay said it’s vital that everyone always wears them whenever they travel in a vehicle.

Another way Patrol will be spreading the seat belt safety message is by participating in the Border-to-Border enforcement event on May 21 with local law enforcement and neighboring states. Law enforcement will join forces to provide increased seat belt enforcement.

“Motorists are going to see heavy law enforcement personnel all across Wyoming and all across the United States,” McKay said. “The idea is to gain compliance though not only enforcement, but through education and getting our message out there. Seat belts do save lives.”