Seat-belt use lags among Garfield teens
Sometimes you just have to have the right motivation.Alone, or with friends, Josh Edstedt doesn’t buckle his seat belt. “I don’t wear it ’cause I don’t like it,” Edstedt, a Glenwood Springs High School junior, said Wednesday after school. Edstedt was holding the door of his girlfriend’s black Ford sedan open waiting for a ride home. “But I do in this car,” he said.Carolyn Wiltse, the girlfriend, apparently provides the right motivation. “I’d get yelled at (if I didn’t),” he said. “I wear a seat belt, and anyone in my car wears a seat belt,” Wiltse said. Wiltse and some other students at GSHS Wednesday afternoon said they always wear a seat belt, but a fair number were less sure. Those numbers reflect Garfield County in general, where teen seat-belt use lags behind that of adults and of statewide teen seat-belt use rates. A new study by the Colorado Department of Transportation reports that 64.1 percent of Garfield County teens (defined as 16- to 20-year-olds) wear seat belts, compared to 79 percent of adults. The relationship between the two groups is reflected throughout Colorado, but Garfield County teens lag behind their peers. On average in Colorado 70.6 percent of teens buckle up, compared to 79.3 percent of adults. “I have no idea (why teens lag),” said Bob Shivley, Roaring Fork School District driver’s education teacher. “But if I had to guess, I would say, because they’re teenagers.” Shivley and other local officials cited the “invincibility factor” in teen drivers. seat belt: see page 2seat belt: from page 1″Kids are indestructible when they’re in that age,” said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario. Colorado has two seat-belt laws for teenagers, according to CDOT. The first is a provision in Colorado’s Graduated Driver License law. The provision states that drivers under 17 can only carry one passenger in the front seat and only as many passengers in the back seat as there are seat belts. If the driver and passengers aren’t buckled up, the driver and can be ticketed. That law is different from the seat-belt law for adults, who may only be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt if they are pulled over for another offense first, according to CDOT. This is the first study CDOT has done on 16- to 20-year-olds and was an attempt to get baseline numbers for seat-belt use in that demographic, said CDOT spokesperson Mairi Nelson.Despite lower seat-belt use rates in teens than officials hoped for, teen driver deaths decreased in 2004 from 2003. In 2003 81 teen drivers were killed in accidents, compared to 55 in 2004, according to CDOT. Garfield County didn’t have any teen driver deaths, according to the report.Why Garfield County teens used seat belts less frequently than their peers statewide was a mystery to local law enforcement. One theory is that kids in rural areas begin driving at a young age on ranches and farms where seat belts aren’t as necessary. Teens then don’t learn to buckle up when they start to drive on roads and highways, Vallario said. Vallario and Glenwood Springs Police chief Terry Wilson said more education might help inspire kids to buckle up. Some kids, though, weren’t uneducated about seat-belt use, they just had reasons not to wear one. Some said it is was a matter of comfort, others of too many kids in the car, and others were just forgetful or don’t always go far enough to wear one.Sixty percent of traffic fatalities can be prevented by wearing a seat belt, said Vallario. “I cannot believe anybody gets in a car and doesn’t put on a seat belt,” he said.Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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