Pueblo health & safety organizations want to reverse low seat belt use

News Release

September 28, 2022 - Statewide - 77% of vehicle deaths are unbuckled

Media note: Footage from media event, speaker remarks, and Seat Belt Convincer can be accessed via Dropbox

Pueblo — Pueblo health and safety organizations are stressing the importance of seat belt use after a statewide study found Pueblo County residents are the least likely to buckle up. The 2022 study, conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation, found that only 67 percent of vehicle occupants in Pueblo County buckle up. By comparison, the study found the statewide average for seat belt use is 87 percent.

“A disturbing part of our work includes seeing the results of what happens to people when they aren't wearing a seat belt in a crash,” said Captain Michael Tafoya, Colorado State Patrol Troop 2D. “We issue tickets as a form of education. Please, buckle up, your seat belt could save your life."

The Pueblo-based Colorado State Patrol Troop 2D, Pueblo Fire Department, and Parkview Medical Center joined CDOT to remind drivers of the critical role seat belts play in vehicle safety. The agencies gathered at Pueblo’s Historic Arkansas River Riverwalk on Wednesday to share the latest data and powerful perspectives on seat belt use in the community.

“CDOT and its law enforcement partners remind drivers of the life-saving benefits of buckling up, both by working with partners in Pueblo and through Click It or Ticket enforcement efforts,” said Darrell Lingk, director of the Highway Safety Office at CDOT. “Most of us don’t expect to be involved in a crash, but many crashes are unavoidable. So buckle up, Pueblo, so you make it home safely to your families.”

According to data from CDOT, 22 people have been killed in traffic crashes in Pueblo County this year. Of those vehicle occupants, 17 (77% of the total) were not buckled up. Statewide, 212 unbuckled fatalities have occurred on Colorado roadways in 2022.

“It’s an unfortunate reality, but there is usually very little we can do when responding to a crash where someone wasn’t restrained,” said Eric Knight, Pueblo Fire Department. “Vehicle cabins are designed with a number of safety features that protect occupants during a crash, but without a properly fastened seat belt, all bets are off.”

CDOT’s seat belt study is conducted annually and uses retired members of law enforcement to observe vehicles traveling on Colorado roadways. In 2022 the study observed seat belt use in nearly 100,000 vehicles statewide. Other counties with low seat belt use included both Fremont and Chaffee counties, which had usage rates below 80 percent.

“For some of us, buckling up is a burden and too often people don’t make it a habit,” said Brittney Surniak, Trauma Program Manager at Parkview Medical Center. “Making the decision to buckle up every time you get in a vehicle is sometimes all it takes to create a good habit that’s likely to prevent life-altering, or even deadly, injuries.”

In addition to calls for more frequent seat belt usage by Pueblo drivers and passengers, at today’s event Colorado State Patrol was joined by student athletes from Pueblo City Schools to provide a firsthand experience of the importance of seat belts. Participants demonstrated the “Seat Belt Convincer” which simulates the forces associated with a sudden stop. Even at the low speed of five to seven miles per hour, students experienced forces up to five times their body weight.

About Click it or Ticket

Click It or Ticket is a nationwide campaign from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Since Click It or Ticket was introduced in Colorado in 2002, statewide seat belt use has increased from 72% to 86%. For more information about seat belt safety and enforcement citation numbers, visit SeatBeltsColorado.com.