After First Weekend of Seat Belt Law, Police Report Fewer Fatalities

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Florida roads were a little bit safer this Fourth of July. Statewide, 22 people lost their lives, compared to 29 at this point last year.

Police think part of the reduction had to do with their big push for seat belt enforcement, especially of the new law that lets them stop anyone under 18 who’s not buckled up.

A car crash killed Sara Biggs’ younger brother Derek just over a year ago. The 19-year-old wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was thrown out of the car. Sara hopes the new law allowing police to pull you over if anyone in the car under 18 isn’t wearing a seat belt will get other teens in the habit before it’s too late.

“I don’t think that if I were 17, 18, 19, I would be thinking about the law, but I think if I’d had another influence to really push me, I wonder if it would have been a better influence on Derek, maybe.”

This past holiday weekend marked the kickoff of the so-called Primary Enforcement Law for people under 18. No longer do you have to be doing something else wrong for police to stop you. If you or anyone else under 18 is not buckled up, the driver gets socked with a ticket.

The Florida Highway Patrol wrote more than 1,360 seat belt citations over this past weekend. Although they haven’t broken the numbers down by age, they hope teens are getting the hint.

Maj. Ernie Duarte says troopers are optimistic.

“We’re hoping to increase the voluntary usage rate, and we know if we do that, the fatality numbers are going to constantly decrease.

Besides fear of a costly ticket, Derek Biggs’ sister says there’s another reason to buckle up that teens just never seem to think about: you break the hearts of the people you leave behind.

Statistics show July and August are the deadliest months of the year on Florida roads. Teens have the lowest compliance rate with the state’s seat belt law.


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