Tag Archives: seat belts

TN seat belt use increases to 88.95 percent

News release from the governor’s Highway Safety Office
TENNESSEE – The Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) announces a significant increase in overall seat belt usage across the State of Tennessee, compared to the previous year. In 2016, a statewide average of 88.95% of front-seat vehicle occupants were observed wearing seat belts during an annual roadside observational survey study conducted by the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Center for Transportation Research (CTR). In 2015, Tennessee’s statewide seat belt usage reflected an average of 86.23%, according to CTR.
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Senate panel kills previously-passed child safety seat bill

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state House Transportation Committee on Tuesday voted to kill a bill seeking to raise the mandatory age for toddlers to ride in rear-facing car seats from 1 to 2.

Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville said his bill (HB1468) was aimed at bringing Tennessee up to date with recommendations of physicians and auto manufacturers, and ensuring that “kids up to the age of 2 — whose necks and bones have not fully developed — are protected.”

Rhonda Phillippi,, the executive director of Tennessee Emergency Medical Services for Children, told the committee that data indicates that children under age 2 are 75 percent safer in rear-facing seats.

“Having the seat backward makes the crash forces go across the back of the car seat, instead of the soft tissues of the child and their underdeveloped bone structure,” she said.

But the panel voted 9-8 to study the issue after the Legislature adjourns for the year, ending the progress of a bill that just weeks ago was poised for Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature.
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AP story on new TN laws, effective Jan. 1

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Motorists in Tennessee who don’t buckle up could face stiffer fines under one of many new Tennessee laws taking effect Friday.

The tougher seat belt law increases the fine for first-time offenders from $10 to $25 and from $20 to $50 for repeat offenders.

More than 300 people who were not wearing seat belts died on Tennessee roadways in 2015, according to the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security. State troopers issued more than 107,000 seat belt citations.

Law enforcement officials hope the new law will drastically reduce the number of citations in 2016 and beyond.
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THP wants to close truck ‘loophole’ in seat belt law

The Tennessee Highway Patrol wants to close a little-known loophole in the state’s seatbelt law that exempts drivers and passengers in heavy-duty trucks and SUVs, according to WPLN.

These are vehicles with a gross weight between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds, including a Ford F-250 Super Duty and some Chevy Surburbans and Lincoln Navigators.

When Tennessee’s seat belt laws were first written in 1986, big diesel pickups and the largest SUVs were left out.

“Most of those vehicles were farm vehicles at the time, being driven around or close to the farms,” says Col. Tracy Trott of the Highway Patrol. “The dynamics of vehicles and families have changed, and that’s why we want to close that loophole and keep people safe.”

Now, some suburban teenagers drive heavy-duty trucks to high school everyday and farm families take trips in three-quarter-ton SUVs. Trott acknowledges the numbers are relatively small, and the owners probably don’t even know about the seat belt exemption. But Trott hopes to have his proposal included as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative agenda next year, which should increase the chance of passage.

This year, Trott successfully pushed through the first-ever increase to Tennessee’s fine for seat belt violations. Starting in January, the penalty jumps from $10 to $25, which is still in the middle of the pack compared to other states.

Troopers have also gotten more serious about writing tickets in recent years. The number of citations written this year has crossed 107,000 so far — 2.5 times more than at the same time five years ago.

THP picked for national pilot program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Highway Patrol has been selected to be a lead agency in a national pilot program.

THP Colonel Tracy Trott says the agency has been selected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a partnering agency to conduct an occupant safety enforcement pilot program.

The THP has identified two counties where fatal crashes have increased due to lack of seatbelt use. They are Bedford and Hawkins counties.

The program kicks off in October and concludes Sept. 30, 2016. The THP will collect occupant protection data including seat belts, child restraint devices and motorcycle helmets from all participating agencies.

The information will be combined with the THP’s data and submitted monthly to NHTSA.

Year to date, 48 percent of all traffic fatalities in Tennessee were unrestrained motorists, compared with 54 percent in 2010.

With higher fines coming in January, TN seat belt use has declined this summer

News release from Governor’s Highway Safety Office:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Governor’s Highway Safety Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol announced today a decrease in seat belt use. The new statewide rate has been finalized at 86.2 percent for the month of June. This percentage represents a decrease from the previous usage rate of 87.7 percent.

The observational seat belt survey is performed by the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) Center for Transportation Research. The survey, which is conducted in accordance with federal requirements and standards, is mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“The decrease represents tens of thousands of Tennesseans not wearing a seat belt this year compared to last,” said GHSO Director Kendell Poole. “While the percentage seems small, the number of lives it impacts is huge. The loss of even one life that could have been saved by a belt is a tragedy. The public will begin to see an even greater combined effort of education and enforcement to raise this number back up.”

Earlier this year, Governor Haslam signed a bill that will increase Tennessee’s seat belt fine beginning in January 2016. The fine will increase from $10 to $25 for first offenders and from $25 to $50 for subsequent offenses.

“Since January 1, 2015, THP personnel have issued 58,494 citations for violation of the seat belt law,” said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. “Aggressive seat belt enforcement is always a priority for our department. We know that seat belts save lives, and we are hopeful that the fine increase will help change behavior across the state.”

“The largest decreases we saw came from travelers in vans and passenger cars,” said Director Poole. “However, pickup trucks still continue to be our lowest use group by a vast margin.”

As of August 3, preliminary statistics indicate 519 people have died on Tennessee roadways, a decrease of 35 deaths compared to 554 fatalities at this same time in 2014. To date, 47.9 percent of the state’s fatalities have been unrestrained motorists.

A summary of the June 2015 Tennessee safety belt survey can be found here: http://tntrafficsafety.org/sites/default/files/2015beltuse.pdf.

TN law enforcement to focus on seat belt ticketing during Memorial Day holiday

News release from Governor’s Highway Safety Office:
Just ahead of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, cops will be cracking down on seat belt violators. The Governor’s Highway Safety Office is partnering with law enforcement statewide May 18 – 31 for the national Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization. The campaign kickoff took place on Monday, May 18th at Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin.

“Tennessee reached its highest seat belt use rate last year at 87.71%. However, we are still considered a ‘low use’ state on a national level,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “More than half of our traffic fatalities are unrestrained at the time of the crash. Imagine what even a small increase in our usage rate could do to the number of deaths and injuries each year.”

A new initiative taking place during Click It or Ticket is the “Border to Border Operation”, beginning at 6:00 p.m on May 18th. Law enforcement agencies will join forces to provide increased seat belt enforcement at state borders, sending a zero tolerance message to the public: driving or riding unbuckled will result in a ticket, no matter what state. This additional overnight enforcement is a result of the national research indicating that unbelted fatalities are more prevalent at night.

Among those speaking at the kickoff included four middle Tennessee traffic crash survivors. In December, the McMurtry family was traveling eastbound on SR 840 when they lost control of their vehicle. After running off the road and striking a large natural stone wall, their vehicle overturned several times. “Because we were wearing our seatbelts, we all walked out of that car with just scrapes and bruises. Not a single broken bone,” said Kayla, daughter. “My point here is this: we like to think that it won’t happen to us. That just one time won’t hurt. But my story proves that you never know.”

“Members of the Franklin Police Department enforce the seat belt law because we know they save lives,” said Franklin Police Chief Deborah Faulkner. “We will use every opportunity to get this message out, especially as it relates to protecting our children.” Last month, Governor Haslam signed a new law that will raise the fine for seat belt violations. Beginning January 2016, the fine for not wearing your seat belt will more than double.
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House, Senate approve increase in fines for not wearing a seat belt

The House and Senate Wednesday both approved legislation that will increase the fine for not wearing a seat belt while riding Tennessee roads.

From Richard Locker:
The fine for first-time violators of the law increases from the current $10 to $25, and for 16- and 17-year-old drivers who violate law from $20 to $25. The fine for second-time and subsequent offenders ages 18 and up moves from $20 to $50.

The bill doesn’t change current law provisions that say safety-belt violations are not subject to court costs nor points assessed by the state against their driving records.

“Studies show that every $10 increase in fines increases seat belt usage by 7 percent,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, the Senate sponsor. “Washington state and Oregon have the highest fines for seat belt violations in the country, at $100. This bill is not about raising revenue; it’s about saving lives.”

The bill won a 22-10 Senate vote and 69-22 House vote.

Note: The bill (SB177) was pushed by the Haslam administration with Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons and Highway Patrol Commander Tracy Trott as lead spokesmen. The Governor’s Highway Safety Commission had laid plans in advance for a PR campaign to promote seat belt use, citing the increased penalties, pending passage.

“This bill is not about raising revenue; it’s about saving lives,” said House sponsor Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, during House floor debate (echoing Ketron).

Similar bills have repeatedly failed in the past, including a Haslam administration effort last year. Opponents say the bill amounts to a governmental effort to dictate personal behavior.

“I don’t believe in government overreach into personal lives,” said Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, during floor debate.

Ketron said that research shows every $10 increase in seat belt penalties increases compliance with seat belt laws by 7.4 percent and the bill should thus increase Tennessee’s compliance rate — 87.7 percent, according to 2013 data — into the 95 percent range that the Department of Safety has as a goal.

Gibbons and

TN traffic fatalities declined in 2014 as Highway Patrol charged more with DUI, seat belt violations

Preliminary numbers from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security show that traffic crashes claimed 945 lives last year in the state, 26 fewer than in 2013. That makes 2014 the third straight year for a decline in Tennessee traffic fatalities.

From The Tennessean:

Final numbers are expected early next week, said Bill Miller, Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman. (Note: The preliminary data comparing 2013 and 2014 fatalities is HERE.)

Miller said the highway patrol’s focus on catching motorists driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol and violating seat belt and child safety restraint laws has contributed to the reduction. Troopers issued dramatically more citations for both violations in 2014 than 2010, which is when Colonel Tracy Trott took command of the highway patrol, Miller said.

As of Monday, the highway patrol made 8,333 DUI arrests in 2014, more than doubling the 3,328 DUIs in 2010, Miller said. Troopers issued 31,577 seat belt and child restraint tickets in 2010. As of Monday, that number was at 102,069 citations for 2014, Miller said.

The highway patrol is trying to create change the driving culture in the state with their enforcement efforts, Miller said.

Bill to increase fines for not wearing seat belts appears dead for session

A Haslam administration bill to increase the fine for not wearing a seat belt appears to be dead for the year.

“Frankly, we don’t have the votes in the Senate Transportation Committee at this point,” said Gibbons in an interview Tuesday.

At this point is fairly crucial since the Senate Transportation Committee holds what is scheduled to be its final meeting of the year today and the administration bill (HB1497) is not on the list of bills to be considered in the last meeting.

The measure would increase the fine for failure to buckle up from $10 to $25 on first offense and from $20 to $50 on second and subsequent offenses. Proponents say that’s still lower than the Southeastern average – $59.60 on first offense and $64.10 on second offense – and contend that higher fines would reduce deaths and injuries in traffic accidents by encouraging more people to use the belts.