Parish schools Superintendent Trey Folse hands out T-shirts to Covington High School students who are wearing their seat belts in May, 2018.  

If you’re short on resolutions for 2020, try this one: Buckle your seat belt every time you drive your vehicle. Don’t leave the driveway unless passengers are properly restrained, too.

That message was lost on many Louisiana drivers last year. As a result, some of those people are dead.

If you don’t believe us about the danger of traveling without restraints, believe the numbers. Trooper First Class Thomas Gossen, spokesman for Troop I, which includes Lafayette, said 51.1% of fatalities in vehicular crashes in this region were not properly restrained. That reflects a higher percentage than statistics from the LSU Center for Analytics and Research in Transportation Safety, but it’s still too many.

That means as many as half the fatalities in Lafayette and nearby parishes came from the 10% of people who didn’t buckle up. The number of deaths among unsecured passengers is by far outpacing fatalities among those who use seat restraints.

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In metro Baton Rouge, 47.9% of fatal victims weren’t properly restrained; in New Orleans, perhaps 30% of crash victims weren’t restrained. Pay heed to those numbers.

Pay heed to this, too: Those who don’t buckle up risk not only their lives and safety, but yours, too. Studies suggest unrestrained passengers can become “human projectiles” inside vehicles, posing great risks to others. They create the conditions for dangerous “human collision” that can occur inside the vehicle during a crash.

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There’s good news about safety, though: Seat belt use in Louisiana is up some 20 percent from 20 years ago. Among Trooper districts, it’s highest in Lafayette, with 91.1% compliance. In New Orleans, 88.7% wear their seatbelts; in Baton Rouge, 86.2%.

Vehicles are built for additional safety and older, less safe models are phasing out. Those who drive pickup trucks are more likely to forgo seatbelt use. In Lafayette, 86.9% of pickup drivers buckle up; Baton Rouge, 78.4%, New Orleans, 84.1%, according to the Center for Analytics and Research. Women, 91.6%, are more likely to use seatbelts than men, 84.2%.

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Of 770 fatal wrecks in Louisiana in 2018, 229 involved not using seatbelts, which reflects not only a disregard for state law — the law says you must wear one— but also recklessness about personal safety and the safety of others.

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