Friday, July 27, 2001

More seat belts
are fastening tight
across the isles,
study finds

However, fewer motorcyclists
are using helmets

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Hawaii's drivers and passengers are buckling up more, according to a study conducted for the state Department of Transportation.

Based on a 2001 Highway Safety Usage Studies report, 82.5 percent of people in Hawaii are using their seat belts this year, up from 80 percent last year.

Along with the use of seat belts, the report includes the use of helmets, child safety seats and truck beds. Studies of more than 50,000 vehicles at nearly 150 sites were conducted from January to February of this year.

The rate of passengers wearing their seat belts in the back seat of a vehicle is low statewide.

The study also pointed out that truck occupants have the lowest rate of wearing their seat belts.

Although seat belt use has increased among drivers and passengers, studies showed infants (less than a year old) were restrained more than twice as often as toddlers (1 to 3 years old).

Observers analyzed 2,523 infants and toddlers in vehicles at 15 shopping malls throughout the state. Of the 450 infants observed, 81.8 percent were restrained. Only 34.8 percent of the 2,073 toddlers were restrained.

Under Hawaii's revised child restraint law, all children under the age of 4 are required to be securely fastened in a child safety seat while traveling in a vehicle.

It was also found that 50.3 percent of toddlers were not restrained by any type of device, and 34.3 percent were strapped in illegally with a seat belt. In addition, 22 percent of infants were observed sitting on the lap of a passenger, while a few were seen seated in a safety seat but were not harnessed.

For motorcyclists and moped riders, the helmet use rate has decreased, while it increased for bicyclists.

Currently, there is no law in Hawaii requiring helmet use for operators or passengers of motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles. For motorcyclists the rate has decreased to 36.5 percent from 38.3 percent. Rates for moped riders dropped to 8.4 percent from 9.9 percent. Studies showed bicyclists wearing helmets increased to 25.4 percent from 22.2 percent.

The number of occupants in truck beds has nearly doubled since 2000. Results revealed that truck bed occupants are up to 1.6 percent from 0.81 percent. In 1997 a law was passed prohibiting children 12 years old and under in the bed of a pickup truck, except for emergencies or authorized occasions such as parades.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa's Department of Urban and Regional Planning was contracted by the Hawaii Department of Transportation to conduct the study.

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