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South Dakota Seat Belt Use One Of The Worst In The Nation

December 12, 2013, 10:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

South Dakota Seat Belt Use One Of The Worst In The Nation

Despite repeated messages and public awareness campaigns that seat belts save lives, some people still refuse to buckle up. 

A recent study by the CDC found South Dakota has one of the worst rates in the country when it comes to buckling up. And while they may sound bad, there is some good news.

Ronelle Anderson is part of a growing trend in South Dakota. She always buckles up.

"I wear my seat belt, but there was a time when I didn't wear my seat belt and I lost a really good friend and now it's a must," Anderson said.

South Dakota was one of the last state's in the country to enact a seat belt law, but ever since 1994, the number of people who buckle up has been rising.

"It makes me feel safe, if I don't have it on I feel naked. I feel like something is out of place if I don't have it on," Traci Coffey said

For some, the habit of buckling up started at an early age. 17-year-old Spencer Mannes was involved in an accident, but thankfully he was wearing his seat belt.

"I didn't fly forward into the windshield, so (it) probably saved my head and other parts of my body from being injured," Mannes said.

Still, not everyone is getting the message.

According to a recent study by the CDC, the national average of people surveyed who say they always wear a seat belt is almost 94 percent, but in South Dakota that number is 83 percent. Over 96 percent of Minnesotans always buckle up, in Iowa the number is over 94 percent. 

"What we've seen ever since there's been a seat belt law, the seat belt use has gradually improved," Lt. Alan Welsh of the South Dakota Highway Patrol said.

Lt. Alan Welsh of the South Dakota Highway Patrol says public awareness that seat belts save lives is helping.

"I can't sit here and tell you that if you have a seat belt on you could never be killed in a car crash, but the reality is you definitely have a lot better chance of surviving a crash," Lt. Welsh said.

That's the message that's being driven home for lots of drivers.

"It's like a natural habit, I do not put my car into drive unless my seat belt is on," Coffey said.

California has the highest percentage of seat belt use at almost 98 percent. New Hampshire is the only state with a poorer use rate than South Dakota at 80.2 percent.

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