Occupants of pickups in Havre are now buckling up at a rate that's nearly the same as other vehicle occupants, according to a recent safety belt survey.
During visual surveys in April and May, safety belt use in all vehicles was just below 50 percent, while safety belt use in pickups was between 33 percent and 37 percent.
This month, after the initiation of a statewide campaign to encourage seat belt use, the rate in pickups was 56 percent, compared to 57 percent overall.
The latest survey was conducted during HELP Camp 2005 by middle school youths. The youths, in groups at seven different street locations, displayed signs encouraging safety belt use while they counted the number of vehicle occupants who drove by and kept track of how many were buckled and how many were not.
On Montana highways, the numbers are much higher - 81.3 percent in passenger cars, 79.1 percent on sport-utility vehicles, and 61.5 in pickups.
Most crashes occur within 25 miles of home and at speeds of 40 mph or slower, according to the Hill County Safe Kids/Safe Communities Coalition.
Montana has the highest percentage of registered pickups in the United States. Montana's percentage of fatalities resulting from crashes in pickups, SUVs and vans is the highest in the United States at 46 percent. The high rate of injury and fatalities is related to the low use of safety belts in pickups, the coalition said. Also, the chance of rollover in those vehicles is twice that of passenger vehicles.
In a vehicle crash, a person hits the nearest barrier at a force equal to the speed the vehicle is going multiplied by that person's weight. For example, a 60-pound child in a vehicle traveling 25 mph hits a stationary object with a force equal to 1,500 pounds, the coalition said. People experience less injury when that force is against a safety belt than against the dashboard, windshield or other hard object.
For more information about safety belts, child safety seats and booster seats, and other passenger safety topics, contact the Hill County Safe Kids/Safe Communities Coalition at the HELP Committee office, 265-6206.