Big Isle Gets Mixed Reviews in Seat Belt, Child Restraint Studies 04-17-01

PHONE: 961-2244
APRIL 17, 2001


Hawaii and Kauai Counties lead the state in the use of vehicle seat belts, according to a recent study conducted by the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The study, entitled “Results of the 2001 Hawaii Seat Belt Use Survey,” said 86.3 percent of the drivers and front seat passengers observed on the Big Island and Kauai were wearing their seat belts.

By comparison, the percentage of drivers and front seat passengers wearing seat belts was 82.3 on Oahu and 78.8 on Maui, according to the study report made to the State Transportation Department.

The report was compiled from the results of field surveys conducted between January and February 2001 at 134 sites on the islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai. A total of 66 sites were selected on Oahu, 24 each on the Big Island and Maui and 20 on Kauai.

The methodology was consistent with that used in previous studies conducted each year from 1985 through 2000.

In all, a total of 56,753 front-seat occupants were observed for the purposes of this year’s study.

The study concluded that overall seat belt use in Hawaii has remained relative stable over the past several years. The overall use of 82.5 percent this year represents only a slight increase from the 80.4 percent observed in 2000 and slightly lower than the peak of 85.3 percent observed in 1991. The numbers are considerably higher than the national average of 71 percent observed last year.

In the use of child restraints, the Big Island did not fare so well compared to some other counties, according to a draft report on the results of another study conducted this year.

According to a report on the child restraint study, 81 percent of infants less than 1 year old and only 34.5 percent of toddlers from 1 to 4 years old were properly constrained by a safety seat as required by law.

By contrast, 98.5 percent of the infants and 43.8 percent of the toddlers were properly restrained on Maui; 81.6 percent of the infants and 28.7 percent of the toddlers were properly restrained on Oahu; and 48.4 percent of the infants and 52.4 percent of the toddlers were properly restrained on Kauai.

The results of the child restraint survey statewide were based on observations made by two-member teams stationed during a weekend at 15 “child restraint sites” — eight sites on Oahu, three on the Big Island and two each on Maui and Kauai. The three sites on the Big Island were the Hilo Walmart, Kona Walmart and Kona Coast Shopping Center.

Commenting on the two studies, Police Chief James Correa said he was pleased with the results of the more thorough seat belt survey.

“The steady high percentages of observed seat belt use over the past several years shows that our residents generally are getting the message that by following the law and buckling themselves up enhances their safety,” Correa said.

“However, we all have a ways to go to meet our goal of 90 percent compliance by the end of 2002.

“The draft report of the child restraint study, though limited in scope, indicates we have room for improvement in protecting the lives of our young passengers.”

Section 291.11-6 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes requires all drivers and front-seat passengers 4 years old and older to use seat belts. Also, all children between the ages of 4 and 17 must be restrained by seat belts if they are seated in the rear of a vehicle. Unbelted occupants at least 15 years old can be ticketed and charged a fine of up to $45 for each violation of the law. If the unbelted occupant is under the age of 15, the driver will be ticketed and fined.

Section 291.11-5 requires all children under the age of 4 to be secured in child safety seats when riding in a vehicle. Violators may be fined up to $100 for a first conviction, up to $200 for a second conviction and up to $500 for a third and subsequent conviction.

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