Despite more people staying home, unrestrained deaths continue to rise


Roads have been less busy during the pandemic, however, according to Virginia DMV, the rate of unrestrained fatal crashes is soaring.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Roads have been less busy during the pandemic but according to Virginia DMV, the rate of unrestrained fatal crashes is soaring.

Data taken Jan.1 through June 30 saw a 16 percent increase in “unrestrained fatalities,” in 2020 – killing 161 people – compared to last year. In 2019, 52 percent of Virginia’s highway fatalities were the result of the deceased not wearing a seat belt. Of the 304 unrestrained deaths, 187 of the people were either totally or partially ejected from the vehicle.

“We have all observed some drivers practicing unsafe behaviors with less vehicles on the
roadways, but the most disturbing trend is that more people are dying because they are not
making the simple decision to click their seat belts,” said Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
(DMV) Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb.

The 2019 Virginia seat belt use rate was 85 percent — one percent more than 84 percent recorded 2018.

DMV reports that men are more prone to not wear their seatbelt while inside an operating vehicle. The 2019 seat belt use survey report concluded that female drivers buckled up 89 percent of the time compared to 82 percent for male drivers. All told, the report found that 90 percent of female passengers wear a seat belt. Only 73 percent of male passengers wear one.

“We are urging everyone, particularly young men, to always wear your seat belt, even on short
trips close to home,” Holcomb said. “And if you are the parent, friend or loved one of a young male, remind him how buckling up truly saves lives, and how devastating it would be to lose him.”

In December 2018, Governor Ralph Northam announced an Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety that is charged with reducing the rising number of fatalities on Virginia’s roadways. The team is comprised of representatives from the Virginia Departments of Motor Vehicles, Transportation, Health, Education, and State Police, and is led by the Deputy Secretaries of Transportation and Public Safety and Homeland Security.

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