PUBLISHED: 4:40 PM on Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Survey shows stalled seat belt usage
New statistics from the Alaska Highway Safety Office show that seat belt usage in Alaska during 2007 has remained largely static from the previous year.

In addition, while 92 percent of the motorcycle passengers wore helmets, only 70 percent of drivers did.

Cindy Cashen, administrator for the Alaska Highway Safety Office, said the numbers are troubling in light of the fact that July was a particularly deadly month on Alaska roadways.

Courtesy photo
  New statistics from the Alaska Highway Safety Office show that seat belt usage in Alaska during 2007 has remained largely static.
"Seatbelts give us some chance of surviving a major traffic collision and these figures show that too many Alaskans are putting themselves at risk," said Cashen.

"We had 18 motorist deaths in July and in 12 of those deaths, a seat belt was not worn."

The results are from the 2007 National Occupant Protection Usage Survey performed for DOT&PF by the Alaska Injury Prevention Center. The information from the survey shows that seat belt usage in Alaska has risen 34 percent from 2001 to 2007.

The 2007 survey shows that about 82.4 percent of Alaskans wear their seatbelt. While that is a drop of 0.8 percentage point from the 2006 level. it is statistically within the survey margin of error.

The survey was based on recorded observations of 32,200 vehicle occupants on specific roads around Alaska.

Observations showed that generally seat belt usage was up in Fairbanks, Juneau and the Matanuska Susitna Borough. The rate of motorists using seatbelts in Anchorage remained largely unchanged, but there was a significant decrease of seatbelt usage observed in the Kenai-Soldotna area.

"One of the deadliest outcomes occur when passengers get ejected from the vehicle - with most ejections coming from failure to wear seat belts."

"People mistakenly believe they can control their body movements during a crash but instead their bodies become deadly weapons as they slam into others before being ejected from the vehicle and into trees, buildings and other immovable objects," Cashen said.

The 2007 survey shows:

• The Mat-Su Valley mini-van drivers have the highest rate with 93.4 percent using their belts.

• Seventy-five percent of pickup truck drivers were buckled up.

• Only 67.9 percent of Juneau pickup truck drivers used seat belts.

• Interestingly, observations showed that generally drivers were more likely to be belted in than their passengers.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, pickup truck drivers and passengers, particularly among young males, consistently have the lowest seat belt usage rates of all motorists.

The survey can be found at