NDOT: Jan. 2022 traffic deaths most in 20-years, troopers urge wearing a seat belt

In January of this year, there were 26 traffic fatalities in the state. The average for that...
In January of this year, there were 26 traffic fatalities in the state. The average for that month between 2018 and 20-21, just 16.(KOLN)
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 8:08 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In the month of January, Nebraska’s roadways saw the most traffic fatalities since 2002, according to Nebraska Department of Transportation. Those fatalities have NDOT and troopers urging drivers to buckle up.

As more people hit the roads with looser pandemic restrictions and nicer weather, it’s an extra reminder to use a seat belt when you’re behind the wheel.

“Any crash no matter in town, short distance, long distance whatever, a seat belt is going to increase the chances that you’ll get there safely more so than anything else,” NDOT Highway Safety Office Administrator, Bill Kovarik said.

It’s becoming a troubling trend law enforcement in Lincoln and Nebraska don’t want to see.

“In Nebraska, we’re still the fourth lowest state in the nation for wearing seat belts, so that’s something we really would like to see improve is more people wearing a seat belt,” Kovarik said.

In January of this year, there were 26 traffic fatalities in the state. The average for that month between 2018 and 2021, just 16.

“We’re seeing traffic over pre-pandemic levels,” Kovarik said, “People are driving more now than they were even a couple years ago.”

What’s seriously concerning for law enforcement is how many people are not wearing seat belts.

“When you’re traveling 75 miles per hour down the interstate, you’re traveling 110 feet per second so things happen fast,” Nebraska State Patrol Sergeant Rob Pelster said, “When you leave the roadway it can get very interesting. To survive, seat belts are the way to go.”

Taking a further look at the numbers, of the 21 vehicle crash deaths in January, 14 were not wearing a seatbelt. Over the last 15 years those numbers are even worse, 72-percent of fatalities were from people not wearing a seat belt.

“There have been several times in my 27 year career where I have arrived on scene and the vehicles were mangled from a very serious crash,” Sgt. Pelster said, “People can survive those by wearing their seatbelt.”

The push from NDOT is now to encourage parents to educate their children and set an example.

“It’s for children and parents. We need to make sure that everyone’s buckled up to keep people safe,” Kovarik said.

NDOT and NSP both emphasize that sometimes just a seat belt click can save a life.

“When you get in a vehicle you know somebody’s counting on you to be alive on the other end, so buckle up,” Kovarik said.

According to the CDC, among drivers and front seat passengers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45-percent. People not wearing a seat belt are also 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle.

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