YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - Deadly crashes have been on the rise this year and many of the people involved in them did not wear their seatbelts, that's according to Washington State Patrol (WSP).
In 2022, WSP responded to 23 deadly crashes on state highways in our area. This number includes Yakima County, the Tri-cities and Walla Walla. Trooper Chris Thorson said over half of them were not wearing seatbelts.
"You are four times more likely to die in a collision if you're not wearing a seatbelt," Trooper Thorson said.
In Yakima County specifically, the Yakima County Sheriff's Office (YCSO) responded to 25 deadly crashes this year. Traffic Sergeant Wes Rasmussen said this is the highest number in the history of the traffic unit which started in 2017. He did not have numbers for how many people didn't wear their seatbelts on hand. He did say most people do a pretty good job of wearing them during the day time.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, about 95% of Washington drivers wear their seatbelts. Trooper Thorson said at night, it's a different story.
Neither he nor Sgt. Rasmussen could explain why less people wear them at night, but they're are different possibilities as to why.
"It's dark out and a lot of people have tinted windows and they think that they're probably gonna get away with it because law enforcement can't see in your vehicle," Trooper Thorson said.
He said it could also be related to more people driving under the influence at night, but there's no statistics that can prove that.
Sgt. Rasmussen said some people don't wear them properly because they can be uncomfortable or because they fear injury if they get into a wreck, but he says nothing is worse than death.
"I have been to wrecks where the victim, the person that did die, would have been absolutely fine had they been wearing their seatbelt," Sgt. Rasmussen said.
When it comes to buckling your kids in right, WTSC lists out how to do it properly in Washington. If they are younger than two years old they should be in the backseat in a back-facing car seat. If they are toddlers or preschool aged they should ride in a front-facing one with a harness. School-aged kids should be in a booster seat until they are four feet and nine inches tall. All kids under 13 years old need to ride in the back seat.
You can click HERE to watch how to put in a car seat.
Motorcycles don't have seatbelts so if you're riding one of those this summer you have to really pay attention on the roads.
"Riding a bike is a bit different paying attention to the drivers around you and upcoming hazards," he said.