HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A safety advocacy group says Pennsylvania’s annual “click it or ticket” education and enforcement campaign — underway now through early June — is better than nothing. But even better than that, they say, would be stricter laws.
The correlation is simple, says Tara Gill, senior director of advocacy and state legislation at Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: Seat belts save lives, and strict seat belt laws cause people to wear seat belts. About nine out of every 10 people nationally now wear seat belts, but about half the people who die in car crashes, she said, are not wearing seat belts.
Advocates gives Pennsylvania a “yellow” for its restraint laws, better than its 12 “red” states but not as good as the nine “green” states.
Pennsylvania is one of 16 states that don’t have a “primary enforcement” law for all occupants of a vehicle — in other words, a law that you can be pulled over for anyone not wearing a seat belt, even if you’re not doing something else wrong. “Secondary enforcement” means you could get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt if you’re pulled over for something else. And adults in Pennsylvania aren’t required to wear seat belts in the back seat Sure enough, according to separate U.S. Department of Transportation data, 35 states have higher rates of seat belt use than Pennsylvania.
That’s not to say Pennsylvania has no seat belt laws. (New Hampshire, if you’re wondering, is the one state that truly has no seat belt laws.)
For example, in Pennsylvania, “every occupant under the age of 18 must wear a seat belt,” said Trooper Megan Ammerman, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Troop H. “There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.” Ditto for children who have to be restrained in an age-appropriate seat.
For anyone with questions about how to do that, Ammerman encouraged Pennsylvanians to attend one of these free child seat checks:
- Harrisburg: May 19, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Kohls, 5125 Jonestown Road
- Elizabethville: May 20, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Walmart, 200 Kocher Lane
- Chambersburg: May 24, June 1 and June 2, all 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Giant, 925 Norland Ave.
- Newport: May 24, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., Newport Park and Ride, US 22/322 at PA-34/Red Hill Road
- Hanover: May 25 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Southern Adams Volunteer Emergency Services, 5865 Hanover Road
- Mechanicsburg: June 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kohl’s, 6444 Carlisle Pike
Gill, of Advocates, says she’s glad PennDOT and PSP run the campaign. She just wishes they had stricter laws to work with.
That decision would fall to the state legislature and Governor Wolf. Asked to comment, a spokeswoman for Wolf said, “The administration is supportive of increasing traffic safety measures in Pennsylvania. The governor would consider signing a bill that supports safe driving practices and policies that encourage wearing seatbelts if the legislature sent one to his desk.”
Spokespeople for Pennsylvania House and Senate Republicans didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.