(COLORADO) — On the heels of a record year for traffic deaths, there is some good news–Coloradans are buckling up more than ever before. However, Southern Colorado counties have some improvements to make compared to other counties in the state.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the recent State of Colorado Statewide Seat Belt Survey shows that the statewide usage rate is 88.6%, a 1.6% increase from 2022. This is the highest usage rate on record, CDOT said.

Completed annually, the study provides a detailed summary of seat belt use in five vehicle categories – cars, vans, SUVs, passenger trucks, and commercial vehicles. Almost 100,000 vehicles were observed in 26 counties in the state. Of the counties studied, 13 reported seat belt usage rates above 90%. In 2020, only six counties reported usage rates that high. 

Statewide seatbelt usage rates
Courtesy: Colorado Department of Transportation

Usage rates were highest in Arapahoe, Garfield, Douglas, Grand, and Park Counties. Unfortunately, Southern Colorado counties were among the lowest usage rates, all below 80%.

Jefferson County ranked the lowest, with a seat belt usage rate of just 73.5%, a 7% decrease from 2022. Pueblo County also ranked below 80%, at 74.46% (a 7% increase from the previous year). Finally, El Paso County was the third lowest in the state at 79.35%, a decrease from 86.7% in 2022.

The report also revealed that passengers tend to buckle up less frequently than drivers and that usage rates were lower on secondary roads but higher on highways. 

“Well done, Colorado! It is great to see so many people taking charge of their safety by buckling up,” said Col. Mathew C Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Seat belts are the single most effective way to protect yourself in a crash, so if you know someone who is still not using a seat belt, tell them how much you care. Ask them if they’d join you in buckling up for the ride.”

Despite the improvement, Colorado still lags far below the national average of 92%. Other states, such as California, Hawaii, Iowa and Oregon, as well as Washington D.C., have achieved seat belt use rates over 95%.

“The good news is that a huge majority of Coloradans follow the law and buckle up. However; there is still more work to be done,” said CDOT’s Office of Transportation Safety Director Darrell Lingk. “To the remaining 11% of motorists not wearing their seat belt, remember that there is a simple solution to ensure you get home safely to your loved ones — buckle up.”

Last year, 763 people were killed on Colorado roads–the most in the state’s history. Of those killed, 236 were not buckled.