Chief Commends Big Isle Motorists for High Seat Belt Use 07-26-01

PHONE: 961-2244
JULY 26, 2001


Hawaii County Police Chief James Correa has commended Big Island motorists for their high usage of seat belts.

“More than 85 percent of Big Island drivers and their passengers are buckling up,” the chief said. “Our motorists are to be commended for their concern for safety, especially of their passengers.”

Big Island motorists rank with those of Kauai as having the highest usage of seat belts — 86.3 per cent — in the state, according to a study by the State Transportation Department’s Safe Communities Office.

By comparison, seat belt usage on Oahu was observed at 82.3 percent; on Maui, it was 78.8 percent.

The study, entitled “2001 Highway Safety Usage Studies,” was undertaken by a survey team from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, which observed more than 50,000 vehicles at nearly 150 sites throughout the state in January and February this year.

The study said seat belt usage increased on the Big Island from a previous high of 83.4 percent set in 2000.

Correa attributed the continued increase in seat belt usage to highly visible enforcement efforts, continued education of Big Island motorists and cooperation with agencies such as the Keiki Injury Prevention Coalition. The group conducts child safety seat inspections at checkpoints islandwide to teach motorists how to properly install child restraint seats.

Although overall seatbelt usage was high in Hawaii County, the study showed it ranked the second lowest in the percentage of back-seat belt usage by young people. In 2001, back-seat usage was only 29.1 percent, compared to 24.9 percent for Kauai, 41.9 percent for Maui and 32.9 percent for Oahu.

Correa said the study points up the need for continued efforts to educate the public about the requirements of the seat belt laws.

Chapter 281-11.6 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes requires all drivers and front-seat passengers at least 4 years of age to use seat belts. Unbelted front-seat occupants 15 years of age and older can be ticketed and charged a fine for violating the law. If the unbelted front-seat occupant is younger than 15, the driver will be ticketed and fined.

During the 2000 legislative session the fine for violating the law was increased from $20 to $45.

And this year, the State legislature added another provision to the law. It requires young persons between the ages of 4 and 17 seated in the rear to be restrained by a seat belt. Those under the age of 4 must be restrained by a child passenger restraint system.

Acting Lieutenant Randy Apele of the Traffic Services Section said Patrol and Traffic Enforcement Unit officers will continue to watch for seat belt violations throughout the Big Island.

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