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March 2016

The Maryland MVA’s “Roll Over” video demonstrates the importance of seat belts

Seat belt laws vary state to state in the United States and province to province in Canada; however, wearing a seat belt, whether driver or passenger, is one of the most important and simple things citizens can do to reduce the risk of serious injury or death on the road.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) won a 2015 AAMVA Public Affairs and Consumer Education (PACE) Award for its “Roll Over” video and event, which was created thanks to collaboration between the MVA, the Anne Arundel County Police Department (AAPD) and the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police. The video also was part of the state’s participation in the national Click It or Ticket campaign in May 2014.

“We’re hoping to show the people of Maryland how important it is to buckle your seat belt,” Tom Gianni, chief of the MVA’s Highway Safety Office and coordinator of the event, says in the video. “That a momentary lapse of not buckling up could have catastrophic results.” 

Sudden Impact

The staged crashes in the video feature a driverless car and pickup truck traveling at speeds of 40–45 mph before hitting a special apparatus to induce a rollover. The stunt dummy placed in the front passenger seat is unbelted. The severe damage the dummy sustains as a result of the crash demonstrates the potential consequences of not wearing a seat belt in a profound way.

In addition to the demonstrations, speakers at the Roll Over event stressed the importance of seat belt usage. The event also served as a training session for members of Maryland’s Crash Reconstruction Committee to better understand rollover crash dynamics.

According to crash data from Maryland’s State Highway Administration, more than 120 unbelted drivers and passengers are killed every year in Maryland. In rollover crashes in particular, unbelted motorists are 75 percent more likely to be killed. “When properly worn, a seat belt is the best defense in a crash, particularly when the vehicle rolls over,” says Gianni.

Lasting Effects

A seat belt is required in every seating position in the state of Maryland. For drivers and front seat passengers, failure to wear a seat belt is the only reason an officer needs to pull a vehicle over and issue a ticket that carries a maximum penalty of $83. This primary seat belt law is another way the state is trying to get 100 percent of Maryland drivers to wear their seat belts every time they get in the car.

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One of the only defenses against distracted, impaired, drowsy or speeding drivers is wearing a seat belt. 

With the success of the video, the jurisdiction has gotten a little closer to that goal. The video earned AAMVA’s PACE Division III Special Events award for its “ability to reach consumers with a well-crafted, measured and executed message.” According to Gianni, the video’s message has resonated with some Marylanders. The observed seat belt use in Maryland increased by 1.4 percent, from 90.7 percent in 2013 to 92.1 percent in 2014 due in part to the event, he says.

Hopefully the video's message will continue to spread, even outside of Maryland, because one life lost due to an unbuckled seat belt is one too many.