February 6, 2013
ODOT Occupant Protection Program Manager
ODOT Public Affairs
Lieutenant Gregg Hastings
Public Information Officer
(503) 731-3020 ext 247
Belts, Boosters, Texting & Speed: Follow The Rules!
Ninety-nine people in Oregon who lost their lives in vehicle crashes in 2011 were not wearing seatbelts. Yet Oregonians know buckling up saves lives: a statewide observation survey in June, 2012 found 97 percent of Oregon's motoring public using safety belts. That puts the state among the top three in the country for safety belt use. Still, small children are often seen using adult-sized seat belts. Add that to distracted driving and speeding, which occur regularly on our roads, and it's a recipe for injuries and fatalities that possibly could have been avoided.
From February 11 - 24, Oregon law enforcement agencies will participate in a statewide overtime effort targeting specific behaviors such as texting, speeding and proper safety belt use, funded in part by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
"Our goal is to put together as many days in a row as we can with no fatalities," said ODOT Safety Division Administrator Troy E. Costales. "It takes a huge effort on everyone's part to keep our roads safe - advocates, our law enforcement partners, emergency responders and everyone traveling - but it's worth it if we can save a life."
Over the past three years in Oregon, 12 people died in crashes involving an active participant who was reportedly using a cell phone at the time of the crash. Officials say this number could be even higher, because cell phone usage is believed to be underreported. When someone is driving 55 mph, 4.6 seconds of texting is like travelling the entire distance of a football field filled of people, while blindfolded!
"Looking down multiple times in a short period of time is obvious to other drivers and to police officers," said Steve Vitolo, ODOT's Law Enforcement and Judicial Program manager. "You're not fooling anyone."
In many crashes and legal actions, Vitolo said police are now requesting access to the text time stamps from cell phone companies. If you crash and cause injuries, an investigation could reveal that you were texting. A recent study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that most drivers do not approve of using cell phones while driving, but the "do as I say, not as I do" attitude remains prevalent, as many of the respondents admitted they practiced those same distracting behaviors.
The Oregon State Police, Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and Oregon State Sheriffs' Association are all participating in this first of three annual joint efforts sponsored by ODOT and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Officers will be looking for proper use of safety belts and booster seats, because child safety seats reduce crash fatality risk for infants under 1 year old by 71 percent and for toddlers aged 1 to 4 by 54 percent.
Impaired and distracted drivers will also be targeted, as well as those going above the speed limit.
"The bottom line is that people need to make smart decisions when they get behind the wheel of a car, because the consequences of not following the rules can be tragic," said ODOT Director Matt Garrett.
OREGON LAW for child passengers: A child weighing less than 40 pounds must be properly restrained in a child safety seat. A child under one year of age or weighing less than twenty pounds must be restrained in a rear-facing child seat. A child over forty pounds but under age eight or less than 4' 9" tall must be restrained in either a child seat with harness system or in a booster seat that raises the child up so that a lap and shoulder belt system fit correctly.