With double the number of road deaths this summer associated with a seat belt not being worn, New Zealand police are co-ordinating an operation focusing on getting road users to buckle up.

Initial crash data indicates that over the summer period (1 December 2015 to 31 January 2016), 22 deaths were associated with a restraint not being worn. For that same period the year before, there were 11 road deaths associated with not wearing a seat belt.

“This operation is about having fewer victims on our roads, not issuing tickets. Seat belts save lives – it’s that simple,” said Superintendent Steve Greally, National Manager of Road Policing.

“It’s disappointing and frustrating that in 2016 we still have people not taking the extra few seconds to protect themselves by doing something as simple as buckling up, especially when everyone knows it saves lives.”

Ministry of Transport data shows that wearing a seat belt reduces your chance of death or serious injury in a crash by 40 percent. Regardless of whether you sit in the front or the back seat, the risk of serious or fatal injury is virtually the same.

The nationwide operation will run the week starting 29 February 2016, and while the main focus is on restraint use, police will also be checking that drivers are not using their cell phones while driving, and everyone stopped will be breath tested.

Annual figures show a sudden increase in deaths associated with non-restraint use. There were around 57 deaths per year associated with non-restraint use from 2012 to 2014. In 2015 that figure jumped to 92.

“No family should ever have to bury a child or family member whose death could have been avoided by being properly restrained while in the car,” said Mr Greally.

“Seat belts – it’s a no-brainer. The two seconds that it takes to fasten your seat belt may just save your life.”

Road safety charity Brake is backing the police operation.

Caroline Perry, Brake’s New Zealand director says: “We see the devastation that road crashes cause families and communities and wholeheartedly support this police operation. It’s vitally important you buckle up on every trip, even if you’re just going round the corner. We urge drivers to remind their passengers, and refuse to carry a passenger who refuses to wear their seat belt. We’re also reminding parents to make sure their children are in a child restraint until they’re 148cm tall. Please remember, seat belts save lives.”

Brake’s advice:

  • Everyone should always wear a seat belt, on every trip
  • It’s extremely important back seat passengers wear seat belts as well as those in the front seats. An unrestrained back seat passenger can kill someone else in the vehicle, and themselves, by slamming into someone else’s head in a crash as they are thrown forward
  • Never squeeze extra people in without belts, or sharing the same belt – this can be as dangerous as not wearing one
  • Three-point seat belts are far safer than lap belts, because the shoulder strap stops you being thrown forward. However, if only a lap belt is available, you should still wear it, as it still reduces your chance of death in a crash by a third (32 per cent)
  • Children should be in an appropriate child restraint until 148cm tall. Their seat should be appropriate for their height and weight
  • Use a child restraint with the New Zealand/Australian Standard tick mark or United Nations E mark, and ensure it is properly fitted. If you need help fitting it, ask a certified Child Restraint Technician
  • Always ensure your child’s seat gives his or her head and neck protection. The top of your child’s head should never come above the top of their child seat