From May 22 to June 4, law enforcement agencies across the state will increase seat belt enforcement as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) nationwide mobilization.
MCPD Assistant Chief George Copas noted that 349 people killed in Tennessee traffic crashes in 2016 weren't wearing a seat belt. That represents approximately 34 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities in 2016.
In 2017, there have been three serious rollover crashes on Highway 11-W in Mount Carmel in which police know the use of seat belts prevented death or serious injuries.
"We're going to have our officers out in force," Copas told the Times-News on Wednesday. "The main thing here is to save lives. That's why we're going to have total enforcement action on every violation. It's a $50 fine."
Copas added, "We'll do saturations where we'll have every available officer driving through the city. Night time it's hard to see seat belt violations, but we do spot them. Daytime is a lot easier. Seat belts are typically different colors than a shirt the driver is wearing, and if they're not wearing their seat belt you can usually see the buckle dangling by their shoulder. It's fairly easy to spot."
Although the state’s average seat belt usage rate increased from 86.2 percent in 2015 to 88.95 percent in 2016, Tennessee is still nationally classified nationally as a “low use” state.
In 2017, the Tennessee Highway Safety Office has set a goal of 90 percent usage or higher.
"According to the national standards nearly half of the 22,000 vehicle deaths that occurred nationally in 2015 were unrestrained," Copas said. "It's more friendly inside the vehicle than outside the vehicle. In any crash, it's a lot better for the individual to stay restrained inside the vehicle than being thrown out against asphalt, trees, poles or other vehicles."