seatbelt-fullORILLIA – Five people who were not wearing their seat belts died on Ontario roads during the final week of the OPP Fall Seatbelt Campaign, much to the dismay of officers who were working hard to reduce these preventable losses. The rash of fatal collisions came at a time when the OPP had their sights set on seatbelt-related deaths reaching a record ten-year low.

The five deaths occurred within one week of the campaign (September 24-October 10, 2014) in four separate collisions (in OPP jurisdiction). Four of the five victims were ejected from the vehicle and in one of the incidents, neither the driver nor the passenger were buckled in, resulting in both people dying. In one of the collisions, the victim was not ejected from the vehicle but died from their injuries – an important reminder that being ejected is not the only reason people die when not wearing a seat belt during a collision.

After posting news of the rash of tragic deaths on its corporate Facebook page, the OPP was concerned about the following comments posted about seat belts:

"...that was their choice to not be wearing should have the freedom to choose if you want to wear it or not..."

" don't have to wear a seat belt because it is a victimless crime..."

"...did the investigations determine that if a seat belt was used, lives would have been 100% saved?"

According to OPP Chief Superintendent Chuck Cox, Commander of the Highway Safety Division, the comments reflect a blatant lack of understanding and respect for Ontario's seat belt laws.

"On one hand, we believe most people understand the important role that seat belts play in saving lives. We would like to thank them for supporting the OPP's efforts and for doing their part by buckling up and keeping themselves safe on our roads. On the other hand, it is troubling to see others defend their choice to not wear one and still cast doubt on the proven impact seat belts have on saving people's lives in collisions."

Cox did note that the majority of the Facebook comments supported seatbelt use and lamented the tragic, preventable deaths. He added that the difference between choosing and not choosing to wear a seat belt is ultimately a life or death decision that produces consistent outcomes in the event of a crash.

"The process of establishing causal factors when people die in collisions is not based on theory or best guesses. The OPP conducts thorough forensic collision investigations from which we can conclude that one or more factors played a role in a person's death. When it comes to occupant restraint, we see the same tragic, unyielding outcome for victims who are not buckled in when we investigate serious collisions," added Cox.

Heading into the campaign, 2014 seat belt-related fatalities in OPP jurisdiction were at 32 (as of September 21, 2014). With the recent spate of deaths during the campaign and subsequent deaths in this category since the campaign ended, the number has risen to 44 (as of October 20, 2014). The lowest number of seat belt-related deaths over the past ten years was 68 in 2009.

With winter weather and road conditions fast approaching, the OPP is asking road users to make buckling up as important a priority as ever, in an effort to get the goal of a ten-year low back on track.

Source: OPP