Department of Health Launches New “Every Seat Every Time” Message

March 3, 2016, 9:42 AM HST · Updated March 3, 9:42 AM
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The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health has launched a new public service campaign that focuses on an overlooked area of motor vehicle injuries – unbuckled back seat passengers.

A 2015 Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation study concluded that although Hawaiʻi has one of the highest overall seatbelt usage rates in the nation at 93%, only 73% of back seat passengers were observed wearing their seat belts.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013 there were 883 unbelted rear seat passenger vehicle occupants age eight and older who died in traffic crashes in the US. Transportation officials say more than 400 of those occupants would have survived if they had worn their seat belts.

The original locally-produced radio spot is the first of its kind in the nation that emphasizes the importance of protecting backseat passengers from serious lifelong injuries. The message airs statewide from Feb. 29 through the end of April and will be translated into four languages.

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“The easiest and most effective way of preventing serious injury or death in the event of a crash is by properly wearing your seat belt every time you ride in any seat of a vehicle,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler in a department press release. “Our new message reinforces the central role of the driver in ensuring all passengers ride and arrive safely to their destinations.”

Airing of the new radio PSA precedes and complements Hawaii’s Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign and national efforts, which traditionally begin at the end of May.

As of May 2013, Hawaiʻi’s seat belt law requires that drivers and all front and back seat passengers wear a seat belt. Even though the law has been in place for over two years, DOT observational studies show that nearly 1 in 3 back seat passengers still do not wear a seat belt. Focus group studies conducted by DOH identified that not all Hawaiʻi residents are aware of the new restrictions.

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The studies also supported a message focusing on the driver’s responsibility for ensuring the safety of their family and friends while riding in the vehicle. Under the new seat belt law, a driver who is pulled over could face a fine of up to $112 per unbuckled passenger.

According to DOT seat belt studies, from 2013-2015, the percentage of back seat vehicle passengers who did not use seat belts by county was 12% in Honolulu, 32% in Kauaʻi, 44% in Hawaiʻi, and 36% in Maui.

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