Click it or ticket: Seat belt safety on campus

Aisling Glocke

Photo courtesy of LITE Team

All it takes is one click of a seat belt to save a person’s life. After the recent accidents involving students not wearing seat belts, it has become important to bring awareness to seat belt safety. Spinnaker interviewed UNF’s Traffic Safety Officer Gus Carlson on the importance of wearing a seat belt and the safety behind it.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles’ website, in Florida, the driver, person in the passenger seat, and anyone under the age of 18 are required to wear a seat belt.

“Florida is one of many states that seat belt usage is a primary offense,” Carlson said. “We can stop any car if the driver or front seat passenger doesn’t have a seat belt on.”

The University of North Florida Police Department regularly conducts surveys on seat belt usage and found that UNF has a 95 percent usage rate for seat belts.

“We have a very high usage rate on campus, and that’s because in the last seven or eight years, I’ve been the traffic safety officer on campus along with another officer, and we strictly do enforcement,” Carlson said.

Wearing a seat belt could mean the difference between coming out of a car crash dead or alive.

“It is very important to wear your seat belt,” Carlson said. “You have a 40 percent better chance of surviving a crash, whether it be injury or death, by wearing a seat belt…you just can’t rely on airbag to protect you, especially from the impact. It protects you from the upper torso but the seat belt restrains you from everything in that whole blast from the airbag and as well as the passenger side.”

If saving lives isn’t enough, wearing seat belts can also save students having to pay money for a fine.

“The fine in Duval County is $114. It’s a non-moving violation so there’s no points against your driving record, doesn’t affect your driver’s status or insurance but it is a pretty stiff fine,” Carlson said.

UNFPD hears all sorts of excuses for drivers or passengers not wearing their seat belts.

“We’ve heard it’s restraining to you as far as movement in your car,” Carlson said. “We hear excuses that it’s uncomfortable and a lot of the times they’re just not wearing it properly. We also hear that they just forgot or they’re going a short distance.”

For students who struggle with telling the driver or other passenger to wear their seat belt, Officer Carlson advises this:

“If you’re the owner of the car then you would politely say to your passengers, ‘You must wear your seat belt if I’m going to be driving, because I’m technically responsible for your safety in my car,’” he explained. “If they don’t want to do that then you have a decision to make. You can say, ‘Well I don’t want you riding with me,’ and that’s a tough thing to say.”

UNFPD continues to enforce seat belt safety through their social media and school events.

“We’re heavy on enforcement on campus with the seat belts and we also address it at orientation and things like that. We also put out a lot of information as well on our Facebook page.”

For more information on seat belt laws in Florida, click here.

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