PORTLAND – More Maine motorists buckled up during this year’s state survey, continuing an upward trend over the years, officials said Thursday.
The Maine Bureau of Highway Safety reported that 77.2 percent of Maine motorists used their seat belts during the survey. That’s the highest level since the state began surveying motorists 20 years ago. It compares with 75.8 percent last year.
The latest survey was conducted this summer following a three-week campaign by 78 police departments to beef up seat belt enforcement around Memorial Day.
“Seat belts clearly save lives and reduce injuries and we will continue to work with law enforcement, transportation officials and health care providers to encourage and increase seat belt usage,” said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara.
Maine has come a long way since the first survey in 1986 showed that only 23 percent of motorists buckled up, but the state still lags behind the national average of 82 percent, said Lauren Stewart, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.
The latest survey showed women are more likely than men to use seat belts, 84 percent vs. 71 percent, and that urban motorists are more likely than rural motorists to buckle up. Pickup truck drivers are least likely to buckle up, according to the survey.
Maine requires all vehicle occupants to wear seat belts, but people 19 or older can only be ticketed if they’re stopped for another infraction. Seat belts are mandatory for all persons under 19.