"The most important function of government is to protect."
These are the words of Florida Governor Charlie Crist yesterday as he signed Florida's new primary seat belt law, and I could not agree with him more.
We at DOT are pleased that Florida has joined the 27 other states that have adopted primary seat belt laws to save lives on their highways. These measures allow authorities to ticket drivers for not buckling up even if the motorist has committed no other traffic violation.
Folks, this is a matter of public safety. It's simple; wearing your seat belt helps determine whether you or someone you love will ultimately walk away from a crash.
Primary seat belt laws like Florida's have a proven
track record of increasing state seat belt use rates. In 2008, the
average seat belt use rate in states with primary enforcement laws was
13 percentage points higher than in states with secondary enforcement
laws. And this translates into lives and resources and grief saved. According to NHTSA, 270 more lives and $900 million are saved and 6,400 serious injuries per year are prevented for every percentage-point increase in safety belt use nationally.
NHTSA estimates that, with the passage of its primary belt law, Florida will save 124 lives, prevent 1,733 serious injuries, and save $408 million in associated costs each year.
Florida legislator Nan Rich, a co-sponsor of the bill, said,"for me it came back to one thing: Saving lives." Rich thanked families who had lost members in fatal car crashes for their efforts in toughening Florida's existing primary seat belt law, "so that other families wouldn't have to go through the pain of losing a loved one."
That is the kind of pain primary seat belt laws seek to prevent, and we thank the State of Florida for siding with safety.