Led by Mecklenburg County motorists, North Carolina reached a landmark last month by hitting the 90 percent mark in seat belt use.
It is the first time the statewide average has hit 90 percent, which is considered a goal by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Mecklenburg, one of 15 counties measured in the survey, which takes place annually in June, had 95.6 percent seat belt use. That was the highest in the state. Four other Charlotte-area counties – Cabarrus, Caldwell, Catawba and Rowan – were a part of the survey, which was measured by law enforcement officers in checkpoints at 120 sites.
According to statistics from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, North Carolina has hovered around 88 or 89 percent over the past five years. Last year’s figure was 88.6 percent.
The seat belt surveys in June followed a statewide crackdown in May, dubbed “Click It or Ticket.” During that campaign, about 14,600 drivers and passengers received citations for not wearing seat belts or for violating the child safety restraint law. Mecklenburg had 723 citations issued, which was third-highest in the state behind Wake County (1,177) and Robeson County (861).
“Enforcement is key in changing driver and passenger behavior,” said Don Nail, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Wearing a seat belt decreases your chances of suffering critical injuries or even death in a crash by 50 percent.”
State officials said the June survey was based on checks of more than 34,000 drivers and passengers.
Second behind Mecklenburg County in seat belt use was Caldwell County, with 93.2 percent. Catawba County, with 92.7 percent, was third. Cabarrus County was seventh, with 91.4 percent. Rowan was among seven of the surveyed counties that fell short of the 90 percent mark, with an 89.3 percent mark.
Wake County, which had the largest number of citations in the May crackdown, was last among the surveyed counties, with an 88.3 percent seat belt use.