Occupant Protection

From 2005-2009 Arkansas had 3,153 fatalities. Of these fatalities 2,513 or 80 percent were passenger vehicle occupants where use of a seat belt was a factor in the outcome of the crash.

Seat belt use has been proven to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and 60 percent for light-truck occupants. In 2010, Arkansas’ seat belt usage rate was 78.3 percent while the national usage rate was 85 percent.

Young drivers from age 16 to age 34 and particularly those between 16 and 24 make up a higher percentage of fatalities versus their percentage of the overall population.

Men are overrepresented in passenger vehicle fatalities. Men represented 62 percent of the fatalities but they are only 49 percent of the population.

White’s are 77 percent of the population and 80 percent of the passenger vehicle fatalities. African Americans are 15 percent of the population and 14 percent of the passenger vehicle fatalities.

Act 562 of the 1991 Arkansas General Assembly provided for mandatory seat belt use seat belt law. The passage of the seat belt law and the implementation of STEPs to enforce the law and provide public information were instrumental in the State’s use rate increasing from 33.6 percent in 1991 to 52.0 percent in 1999.

Arkansas passed a primary safety belt law which took effect June 30, 2009. The 2009 seat belt survey showed adult seat belt use at 74.4%. In 2010 seat belt use increased to 78.3%. Preliminary data for the most recent 2011 survey shows the use rate at 78.4%. The 5-year moving average shows seatbelt use in Arkansas continuing to trend upward.

Recognizing the importance of promoting seat belt use, the HSO will continue to contract with an advertising/public relations firm to provide high-visibility public information campaigns. Other projects will also continue to educate young drivers about seat belts; to educate the public about child passenger safety (CPS); to train law enforcement, healthcare and childcare professionals, and other highway safety advocates in CPS; and to continue child safety seat loaner programs.

Occupant protection selective traffic enforcement projects (STEPs) were continued in FY 2011. These 36 projects included selective enforcement of speeding, seat belt laws and impaired driving. The primary emphasis of these projects was the enforcement of seat belt and child restraint laws. A PI&E component supplemented these projects.

The Click It or Ticket (CIOT) Campaign implemented in 2002 continues to play an important part in efforts to raise the adult seat belt use rate. This enforcement mobilization effort was instrumental in raising the adult seat belt use rate from 63.7 percent in 2002 to 78.3% in 2010. These projects and the CIOT program will be continued in FY 2012. In addition, current efforts will be expanded to recruit law enforcement agencies for participation in the mobilizations. These additional agencies will assist with the increased emphasis on stepping up enforcement efforts.

The communities selected for Selective Traffic Enforcement Projects fall within the top 50 ranked counties. A methodology was developed to identify counties with the greatest need for an occupant protection project.