Officials Issue Reminder to Buckle Up

The Dane County Traffic Safety Commission (TSC) is urging drivers to buckle up ahead of a county-wide education and enforcement effort March 17-27. During that time, the 52-member TSC is working with law enforcement groups and other agencies in the “Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time.” campaign to remind the public of the risks and consequences of not wearing seat belts.

“We want seat belt use to be an automatic habit for drivers and passengers alike,” said Lt. Chad O’Neil, Stoughton Police Department, and co-chair of the TSC Law Enforcement Group. “Use of seat belts is the single most effective way to stay alive in a crash.” Lt. O’Neil said in the past five years, 74,059 persons were involved in Dane County traffic crashes where seat belt use was known. Ninety-six percent of those with no injuries were wearing seat belts, while half of those killed were not.

The national seat belt use rate in 2023 was 91.9%. Lt. O’Neil warned that while this rate is the highest since 2017, the rate of seat belt use in Wisconsin has been declining. “In 2022, the Wisconsin rate was 87.5%. That’s still good, but it can be better,” he said. “What about the other 12.5%?”

“Buckling up increases likelihood that drivers and passengers remain inside the vehicle during a crash. Being ejected from the vehicle during a crash is almost always deadly,” Lt. O’Neil said. He added that seat belts also are the best defense against impaired, aggressive, and distracted drivers. Cheryl Wittke, TSC co-chair and executive director of Safe Communities of Madison-Dane County, clarified several misconceptions about seat belt use:

  • It’s as important to wear seatbelts in large vehicles like pickups as in passenger cars. National statistics show of those not buckled up and involved in 2021 traffic crashes, 61% of pickup truck occupants died, compared to 47% in passenger vehicles.
  • Air bags are designed to work with seatbelts, not replace them. The force of an airbag can seriously hurt or kill you if you’re not buckled up.
  • Improperly wearing a seat belt, such as putting the strap below the arm, puts you at greater risk in a crash.
  • Buckling up in the back seat of a passenger vehicle is as important as in the front seat.

Lt. O’Neil said the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and many local police departments in Dane County will be conducting increased enforcement efforts during the campaign to spot unbelted vehicle occupants. “We’ll be watching day and night since we know a higher percentage of fatalities occurring at night are unrestrained (57%) than during the day (43%). We’ll be especially watching for younger drivers who are more likely to be unbelted and lose their lives. He said 64% of those killed or seriously injured and not wearing seat belts in Dane County crashes over the past five years were aged 35 or younger.

“Anyone driving without a seat belt will receive a citation, but that’s not the most important reason. We don’t want even one person to die or be seriously injured when it could have been prevented by the simple act of buckling up.”

He said all law enforcement agencies participating in the campaign will be reporting results, which will be shared with the public afterwards.

Participating Law Enforcement Agencies:
(Additional agencies may be added by time of the campaign)

  • Dane County Sheriff’s Office
  • Belleville Police Dept.
  • Blue Mounds Police Dept.
  • Cottage Grove Police Dept.
  • DeForest Police Dept.
  • Madison Police Dept.
  • Maple Bluff Police Dept.
  • Marshall Police Dept.
  • McFarland Police Dept.
  • Monona Police Dept.
  • Marshall Police Dept.
  • Middleton Police Dept.
  • Monona Police Dept.
  • Mount Horeb Police Dept.
  • Oregon Police Dept.
  • Stoughton Police Dept.
  • UW-Madison Police Dept.
  • Verona Police Dept.
  • Waunakee Police Dept.

Please see attached resources

Seat Belt Safety Fact Sheet

Seat Belts – Social Media Messages