Carroll's Seat Belt Sentinels CARROLL COUNTY

December 29, 1992

When it comes to informing people about Maryland's seat bel laws and enforcing them, Carroll County law enforcement agencies wear the title belt.

Few other local police departments are as involved in the state's ongoing safety belt campaign. In the past three years, Carroll has tied neighboring Frederick for the most active program among a half-dozen similar sized counties, as judged by the Governor's Highway Safety Program. The Westminster city police department, in particular, has been a leader in compiling and publicizing seat-belt use statistics.

Through such vigilance, Maryland has become the leader in the continental United States in seat-belt compliance, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Only Hawaii outdoes the Free State in U.S. seat-belt use surveys. When Maryland officers stop and survey motorists on seat belt use, 75 percent of drivers and front-seat passengers are wearing them, a higher percentage even than in states with stricter seat belt laws.

Partly as a result of this compliance, the state is headed toward its lowest total of highway fatalities in nearly two decades, a gratifying achievement.

The lowest number of highway deaths in Maryland, 616, was recorded in 1964. We've had about two dozen more than that to date with only three days left in 1992. But there are double the number of vehicles registered in the state now as in 1964. Since the mid-'80s, Maryland has commonly rung up 700 or 800 deaths by motor vehicle accident a year. (Carroll's traffic fatalities in 1992 -- 26 through October, the last month for which figures are available -- is roughly the same as in recent years.)

The state seat-belt campaigns have attempted to shatter the old canard that motorists could more easily escape a crash if they weren't confined by a belt. In fact, people who are unsecured and ejected from a vehicle in a collision are much more likely to be severely or fatally injured.

The combination of holiday cheer and winter weather can make this a perilous spell on the roads. Don't neglect to do something that could save your life -- buckle up. It only takes a matter of seconds. This is one matter in which we hope you contribute to a highway statistic -- a favorable one for Maryland.

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