NC Highway Safety Program distributes awards to encourage seat belt usage

Raleigh, NC – As more drivers get back on the road amidst COVID-19, wearing seat belts are and have been the primary means for saving lives behind the wheel.

photo by C Farnsworth

In an effort to reinforce and encourage seat belt usage, the NC Governor’s Highway Safety Program is recognizing survivors of vehicle crashes by awarding them ‘Click It or Ticket’ ‘Saved by the belt’ certificates.

“Is it an Oscar? No,” NCGHSP Director Mark Ezzell said. “It is, however, a way to thank people for doing what’s right and share their stories, which we hope will in turn encourage other drivers to buckle up.”

According to data from the N.C. Department of Transportation, over 88 percent of drivers statewide buckle up, but of those that do not, about 43 percent of drivers are more likely to die as a result of a serious crash if they are not wearing their seat belts.

Last year, of the 1,470 people that died on North Carolina roadways, 43 percent were not wearing a seat belt.

In March of 2018, NCDOT Safety Officer Tracey Helms and a co-worker were traveling through the intersection of N.C. 903 and Aurelian Springs Road in Halifax County. They were t-boned by an oncoming vehicle.

“I remember the loud explosions and the vehicle spinning around into the other lane; when the vehicle came to a stop, we were on the opposite side of the road in the ditch,” Helms explained.

Both vehicles were totaled. Helms and his co-worker were wearing their seat belts. According to recent data, 83 percent of drivers in Halifax County buckle up, about 7 percent less than the state average. In Chatham County, 92.1 percent of drivers buckle up. (Check your county seatbelt rates here.)

Helms will be the first recipient of certificates in a series to be awarded by NCGHSP this year to drivers who tell their ‘Saved by the belt’ story.

Share your seat belt story (here).

NCGHSP will share these stories on social media in an effort to improve seatbelt usage and move the needle in the statewide plight that includes hundreds of educators, healthcare workers, elected officials and volunteers who are working together to eliminate roadway deaths.

“We want all North Carolinians to survive the ride and we hope that recognizing the efforts of those that are practicing safe driving behaviors will encourage all drivers to do the same,” Ezzell said.

NCGHSP asks that you support traffic safety efforts by following @NCGHSP on Facebook and @NC_GHSP on Twitter and Instagram and commenting today!