CDOT Launches Campaign To Address Seat Belt Crisis in Colorado



STATEWIDE—In 2015, Colorado saw an alarming spike in traffic fatalities, totaling 545 fatalities, compared to 488 in 2014—an 11.7 percent increase. Even more telling: the 15 percent of Coloradans who don’t buckle up represent 52 percent, or 181, of all 2015 passenger vehicle fatalities. 

In response, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is launching a new statewide campaign to address the seat belt crisis: Beware of the Beltless. CDOT launched the widespread initiative with a press conference, Monday, June 6, at Denver Health Medical Center. 

At the event, CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt spoke alongside Dr. Fredric Pieracci from Denver Health, as well as John Bowman, whose granddaughter survived a crash in a car seat. The girl’s father, however, died because he wasn’t buckled up. 

“Motor vehicle traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death for young adults in Colorado,” Bhatt said. “Many people incorrectly assume that not buckling up only puts you at risk—or has consequences that only affect you. That is simply not the case. An unbuckled passenger in your vehicle increases your risk of being hurt or killed by 40 percent. You should never be afraid to ask others to buckle up; it’s for the safety of yourself and those around you.” 

“Injuries from not wearing a seat belt can include extensive internal damage to the heart, lungs and aorta, all of which can potentially be life threatening injuries,” said Pieracci, trauma medical director at Denver Health. “If the force of the impact causes the person to be ejected from the car, there is also a great risk for head injuries and possibly traumatic brain injury, which in the most severe cases can lead to death or a persistent vegetative state. 

“If there is one piece of advice I can offer, it’s to take the time to buckle your seatbelt.” 

Bhatt also announced the counties of focus for the campaign: Denver, Jefferson, Weld, Pueblo, Adams and El Paso. These counties were chosen based on a combination of low seat belt use and a high rate of unbuckled fatalities. 

Each county features partners that will be vital to spreading the campaign messaging. A total of 32 confirmed partners come from a variety of sectors, including health care, transportation, law enforcement, military, community organizations and some of the largest employers in the counties. 

“The commitments of support are huge,” Bhatt said. “With the help of our partners, this campaign will have lasting effects on seat belt usage rates across Colorado—and ultimately save hundreds of lives in the years to come.” 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that Colorado could save 63 lives and countless injuries annually by increasing seat belt use to 100 percent. 

The campaign’s overarching message is a new approach to seat belt safety. CDOT and campaign partners want the public to realize not wearing a seat belt doesn’t affect just you; you can become a direct threat to the people around you. In the event of a crash, an unbelted driver or passenger can act as a projectile and cause serious or even fatal damage to others in the vehicle. 

The goal of the campaign is to create a sense of urgency around seat belt use. Motor vehicle traffic crashes are one of the leading causes of death for young adults in Colorado. 

The press conference also featured a crashed car exhibit to illustrate the risks posed by not buckling up. The campaign will run through Sept. 15.


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