Coroners stress need for seatbelt use

The BC Coroners Service is urging all drivers and passengers in motor vehicles to use their seatbelts at all times.

The BC Coroners Service is urging all drivers and passengers in motor vehicles to use their seatbelts at all times.

The Coroners Service has just completed a detailed study of fatal motor vehicle crashes in the Interior of the province that shows a high proportion of those who died were not wearing seatbelts – with devastating results.

Although numerous studies by the RCMP and Transport Canada show that at least 90 per cent of British Columbians wear their seatbelts, the Coroners Service study showed that fewer than 60 per cent of those who died were wearing them at the time they crashed.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe noted that studies throughout North America have consistently concluded that wearing a seatbelt correctly is the most effective single step vehicle occupants can take to prevent death in the event of a crash. The deaths of those who died despite correct seatbelt use confirm that some crashes are so devastating that no amount of safety equipment can save the occupants. However, coroners who attended the crashes described many examples in which seatbelt use would almost certainly have saved lives – people who were thrown through windshields, thrown around inside a vehicle, or ejected from a vehicle. The Interior study mirrors numerous studies which show that failure to wear a seatbelt significantly increases the risk of serious injury and death, independent of other factors in the crash.

The BCCS study looked in detail at fatal motor vehicle crashes for 2010 in the Interior Region of BC, a total of 85 deaths. (Crashes involving motorcycles, cyclists or pedestrians were not included.) Of the 85 cases, only 47 per cent were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash, 41 per cent were definitely not, and seatbelt usage was unknown in 12 per cent of the cases.

The Coroners Service is continuing work on similar studies in other regions of the province. The first study was done in the Interior Region because coroners there had noted a high proportion of persons not wearing their seatbelts in the crashes they were investigating.

Here are some more stts from the study:

* Total number of deaths investigated: 85

* Of those, 62 per cent were drivers, and 35 per cent were passengers. In two per cent of cases, it could not be determined definitively who had been the driver in the crash.

* Of those who died, 62 per cent were male, and 38 per cent were female.

* Gender made little difference as to whether or not someone wore their seatbelt. Of the males who died, 45 per cent were wearing seatbelts, and 41.5 were not wearing them, with seatbelt usage unknown for 13.5 per cent. Of the females who died, 50 per cent were wearing them, and 41 per cent were not, with usage unknown for nine per cent.

* Persons involved in a crash in which the driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs were significantly LESS likely to have been wearing their seatbelt. In cases in which impairment was a factor, only 25 per cent of those who died had been wearing their seatbelts. Sixty-four per cent had not, and usage was unknown for 11 per cent. But in cases in which impairment was not a factor, 58 per cent were wearing their seatbelts, 30 per cent were not, and usage was unknown in 12 per cent.

* Tourists and persons who did not live in the BC Interior were significantly MORE likely to have been wearing their seatbelts than local residents. Of persons from outside the region, 61 per cent were wearing their seatbelts, 29 per cent were not, and usage was unknown for 11 per cent. For local residents, only 37 per cent were wearing their seatbelts, 49 per cent were not, and usage was unknown for 14 per cent.

This mirrors the finding of many studies which show persons are more likely to wear seatbelts on lengthy trips, such as highway driving, than on short trips around their home communities.



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