Winter conditions underscore need to wear seatbelts

Staff reports

North Dakotans have encountered many occurrences of severe driving conditions since the snow starting falling in early December.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) has worked hard to keep roadways clear and safe, but motorists are encouraged to take precautions while driving in severe winter weather.

Difficult driving conditions, including blowing and drifting snow, low visibility, icy patches, and other hazards can come up suddenly, underscoring the need for motorists to wear seatbelts to avoid crash injuries and fatalities.

Since December 1st, there have been eight fatal crashes on state highways involving nine total fatalities.

Only three motorists were known to be wearing seatbelts at the time of these crashes, causing concern on the part of NDDOT and law enforcement officers.

“It is important to remind motorists that winter driving conditions can be very unpredictable, particularly in our part of the country where weather conditions can change in a matter of minutes” said Mark Nelson, Director of the NDDOT's Safety Division. “It is possible to reduce fatalities if all drivers and passengers wear their seatbelts,” Nelson added.

State officials urge the public to remember that statistics show a lower incidence of fatal injuries in crashes when seatbelts are worn. Seatbelts prevent injuries most effectively when everyone in a car wears them.

In cases where some motorists are wearing seatbelts and others aren’t while riding in the same vehicle, it is possible for the passenger without a seatbelt to cause fatal injuries to others in a crash.

This scenario is highlighted in the current NDDOT media campaign entitled “Crash.” The ads show a situation in which the passenger was wearing a seatbelt but the driver wasn’t – and the force of the driver’s movement during the impact causes fatal injury to the belted passenger. The message, “Wear it for them,” illustrates the importance of recognizing that seatbelts protect everyone – both you and those you care about.