Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida

Florida’s statewide safety belt use rate for 2023 is 89.4 percent, an improvement from the 2022 result of 88.3 percent. This annual statewide survey is primarily designed to provide a single safety belt usage estimate for the entire State of Florida, not official county rates. However, these rates are still helpful as they can serve as reference points for changes between years.

Out of the three counties surveyed in our 18-county district, the total number of Observed Front-Seat Occupants, including drivers and passengers, was 5,413.

2023 Survey Results for Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida

  • Alachua County 90.6% (down from 90.8% in 2022 and 95% in 2021)
  • Duval County 86.2% (down from 87.5% in 2022 and 87.3% in 2021)
  • St Johns County 89.3% (up from 86.6% in 2022 and down from 92.1% in 2021)

Notably, the sites used in the 2022 and 2023 surveys differed from previous years, potentially influencing the shift in survey numbers. Alachua and St. Johns yielded their lowest usage over the five measurements in the survey for the years 2017 through 2022. Some decreases could be due to the different areas where new sites are located.

Despite the year-to-year decrease, safety belt usage generally shows an upward trend. However, the recent pullback does indicate that occupant protection programs should still seek to increase safety belt usage among the disproportionately low-use groups identified in this survey.

Occupant Protection Messages in Response to Low Usage Rates

The low safety belt usage groups identified include pickup truck occupants, male passengers, occupants between the ages of 16-34, and black occupants.

Occupants Ages 16-34: Be Savvy… Buckle Up
Occupants in Pickups: Buckle Up in Your Truck

Additional Occupant Protection Tips, Information, and Resources

  • Wear your seat belt for every ride.
  • Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash.
  • Secure children in a proper child safety seat.
  • Safety belt use isn’t just a good idea; IT’S THE LAW.

The Traffic Safety Team provides a variety of occupant protection materials:

Safety Belt Law History

In 1986, Florida implemented its first adult safety belt law. Safety belt use before the law was at 22% statewide. From 1999 to 2004, Florida’s use rate increased from 59% to just over 76% due to FDOT’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign and other efforts across the state. In 2009, Florida passed a primary enforcement safety belt bill, and safety belt use has increased since the law’s passage. Working together, we can continue to increase safety belt use and reduce fatalities and injuries on our roadways.

“Always Buckle Up … for Your Family. For Yourself. For LIFE.” 
No Regrets When You BUCKLE UP!

Read more: Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida

Survey Results in 2021 for Safety Belt Use in Northeast Florida and Statewide

According to the 2021 survey by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), statewide use of safety belts increased slightly, from 89.8% in 2019 to 90.1% in 2021. Of the 18 counties in FDOT District Two, three were surveyed in 2021. Safety belt use in Northeast Florida increased in two out of the three counties surveyed. We are proud of both Alachua (95%) and St. Johns (92.1%) for making the list of high-usage counties!

Survey Results and Trends

Florida’s 2021 survey results show safety belt use differed by road type. Motorists on higher speed roads are buckling up more, while usage on local, lower speed roads are least likely buckled up. The highest use of safety belts was on interstate highways, at 93.1%, followed by principal arterials at 91.9%. The lowest usage was on local roads, at 87.6%, and minor arterials at 87.3%.

Safety belt usage also differed by vehicle type. Occupants in pickup trucks have exhibited lower usage than those in other vehicle types every year of the survey. SUV occupants frequently used their safety belts at 93.7%, car occupants at 90%, van occupants at 89.9%, and pickup occupants at 81.6%.

Survey results consistently indicated that females were more likely to wear a safety belt every year. In 2021, 92.9% of females buckled up, versus men, at 87.6%.

Occupants ages 35–39 buckled up 91.8% of the time, and those ages 16–34 buckled up the least, at 88.7%. Prior surveys show a similar pattern in usage among age groups. 

Overall, safety belt usage has shown an upward trend over time. The 2021 results indicate progress in use among occupants traveling on higher-speed roadways and certain types of vehicles (SUVs). Results also indicate where improvement is still needed among the low belt use groups, including occupants of pickup trucks, black occupants, and occupants traveling on lower-speed roadways.

FDOT State Safety Office administered the annual survey. State survey sites and locations were based on recent traffic fatality counts in 15 Florida counties. Click here to view the Safety Belt Use in Florida 2021 Final Report. (Note: No survey was conducted in 2020.)


Alachua County Safety Belt Use Rates Highest in Florida in 2021

Congratulations, Alachua County, for having the highest usage rates in the state again! Survey results showed that Alachua equaled its highest-ever use rates, at 95.0%, and ranked #1 overall statewide. Alachua has been a long-time winner with buckling up. We are proud of Alachua for consistently remaining at the top of usage rates in Florida.  

St. Johns County Rates High in Safety Belt Use in 2021

Kudos to St. Johns County for maintaining an above-average usage rate. St. Johns came in at the fifth-highest county in the state with a 92.1% safety belt use rate (a tie with Lee County). Since 2018, St. Johns has rated over 90% safety belt use.

Duval County Safety Belt Use Needs Improvement

We have work to do in Duval County! Of the 2021 counties surveyed, Duval ranked the secondlowest safety belt use rate in the state, at 87.3% (followed only by Volusia at 84.%). Plans are for extensive efforts to provide resources, tools, and support to Duval County by educating others on the importance of buckling up. The FDOT District Two Community Traffic Safety Program (CTSP) has many occupant protection resources on its website and social media platforms.

Traffic Safety Bookmarks

25 Years of Bookmarks!

The Northeast Florida Community Traffic Safety Program started developing relationships with local libraries and schools in 1999. Traffic safety tips for kids were shared primarily on bookmarks, which led to activity books, tip cards, and even schoolbook cover wraps. In 2017, we targeted messages toward drivers and children on our bookmarks. In 2021, activity cards were created for libraries with bike, walk, ride, and drive safe education and puzzles like crosswords, mazes, word searches, and coloring activities.

This year, we are showcasing a new bookmark with our rural, country-themed “Life is a journey” campaign. The messages encourage positive driving behaviors to tackle aggressive speeding, distracted driving, impaired driving, and buckling up. We have an updated traffic safety bookmark with cute animals targeted at young children. Another bookmark focuses on occupant protection for all passengers and child passenger safety. Finally, we created one for preteens and young adults with pedestrian and bicycle safety reminders. Here’s a sneak peek.

New Bookmarks Coming to a Library Near You in 2024!

Life is a Journey. Focus on Driving bookmark
Life is a journey–Slow down!
Walk 'n Roll Safely bookmark for kids
Walk ‘n Roll Safely Kids!
Protect Your Precious Cargo, Always Buckle Up bookmark
Protect Your Precious Cargo!
Take Action for Your Safety bookmark for teens
Take Action for Your Safety!

Even in today’s digital world, our bookmarks have continued to be popular. Traffic safety materials are available in bookmobiles and neighborhood library branches throughout District Two’s 18 county libraries.

Previous Traffic Safety Bookmarks

Continue Reading

Buckle Up Buddy Heart

Sweetheart Craft for Valentine’s Day

Check out our cute Buckle Up Buddy Heart and bring some safety fun into Valentine’s Day. It’s time to get crafty with the kiddos (or for those of us who are just a kid at heart). Don’t be afraid of pink and red, hearts, and even glitter. This is a unique Valentine’s holiday craft with a simple traffic safety message.

Buckle Up Buddy Heart Artwork
Make your own Buckle Up Buddy Heart Valentine!

You and your family or school class can make these easy Buckle Up Buddy Hearts. The arms and legs bounce and jiggle… make us smile and want to giggle while remembering the importance of buckling up!

This is a cute DIY craft for any time of year. Kids can make a Buckle Up Buddy Heart for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or as a birthday card. In addition to being a fun art project, it also sends a positive traffic safety message. Occupant protection is always a primary concern. All drivers and passengers should be properly restrained with a lap and shoulder seat belt, and children should be correctly strapped into the right car seat that fits their size.

Download this free printable Buckle Up Buddy Heart Valentine craft sheet and follow the instructions. 

Buckle Up Buddy Heart – Valentine Craft
Template by Northeast Florida DOT District Two

Community Traffic Safety Team

SUPPLIES:

  • white card stock (or heavy paper)
  • crayons or markers
  • glitter or glitter glue (optional)
  • scissors
  • glue or glue stick
Buckle Up Buddy Heart Activity Card

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Download and print the free template provided above.
  2. Color and decorate the hearts.
  3. Cut out all the pieces.
  4. Fold arms and leg strips like an accordion.
  5. Glue the arms and legs onto the big heart.
  6. Finally, glue the small hearts on to create hands and feet.

You can write a personalized message on the back of your Valentine card. We like, “Be Mine. Be Safe. Be Buckled Up.” Don’t forget to give your special Buckle Up Buddy Heart to someone you love. Or leave it in the car as a reminder to all those you love to wear their seat belt for every car ride.

Move Over or Slow Down

Every January is Move Over Month in Florida. The Northeast Florida Department of Transportation District Two Community Traffic Safety Program reminds all motorists to obey Florida’s Move Over Law. This law helps to protect those who protect us while they provide essential services in a dangerous environment – the side of the road.

Florida law requires motorists to move over a lane — when they can safely do so — for the following:

  • Stopped law enforcement.
  • Emergency responders.
  • Sanitation and utility service vehicles.
  • Tow trucks or wreckers.
  • Maintenance or construction vehicles with displayed warning lights without advanced signs or channelizing devices.
  • NEW: Disabled vehicles. (effective 1/1/2024)
Move Over or Slow Down
Move Over
Slow down if unable to move over
Pull over for moving emergency and law enforcement vehicles

New Requirements Added to the Move Over Law – Effective January 1, 2024

Florida lawmakers take action to enhance protection for all roadway users. The expanded Move Over law adds three scenarios to Florida’s current law. Motorists will be required to move over if:

  • There is a disabled motor vehicle that is stopped and displaying warning lights or hazard lights.
  • If a vehicle is stopped and is using emergency flares or posting emergency signage.
  • When a vehicle is stopped and one or more persons are visibly present.

Florida’s Move Over Law Expanded in 2021

In addition to first responders, this law also applies to other public servants and roadside workers. Drivers typically know to move over for law enforcement, fire rescue, and emergency medical services. Many still do not realize the law requires them to move over for sanitation, utility, wrecker, maintenance, and construction vehicles. Basically, if motorists see a service vehicle on the side of the road with flashing warning lights, they need to change lanes or slow down.

Florida Law, Move Over and Slow Down for Stopped Emergency and Service Vehicles

The Florida requirement expanding to cover these additional roadway service providers was enacted in July 2021. In 2022, there were 170 crashes and more than 14,000 citations issued for motorists failing to move over in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). Obeying Florida’s Move Over law will help ensure all personnel working along our roadways get home safely.

Move Over

  • As soon as it is safe to do so, vacate the lane closest to the stopped law enforcement, emergency, sanitation, utility service vehicles, tow trucks or wreckers, maintenance or construction vehicles with displaying warning lights, and any disabled vehicle on the side of the road when driving on an interstate highway or other highways with two or more lanes.
  • Always signal your intention to change lanes.
  • Be prepared to allow those who are attempting to move over into the next lane.

Slow Down

  • If moving over cannot be safely accomplished, or when on a two-lane road, slow down to a speed that is 20 mph less than the posted speed limit when the posted speed limit is 25 mph or greater, or travel at 5 mph when the posted speed limit is 20 mph or less when driving on a two-lane road.

Violating the Move Over law puts you and others at risk, and a citation will result in a fine, fees, and points on your driving record. To read the Florida Statue, see 316.126 – Operation of vehicles and actions of pedestrians on approach of an authorized emergency, sanitation, or utility service vehicle.

Pull Over for Moving Emergency Vehicles

Motorists should always remember to pay attention while driving and pull over for emergency vehicles approaching from behind. Help protect moving emergency vehicles by:

  • Yielding the right of way
  • Moving to the closest, safety edge of roadway
  • Clearing intersection
  • Remaining stopped until the vehicle has passed

Engineering Concerns

One of the most essential functions of our Traffic Safety Team is identifying problems on our local roadways. You and your colleagues are the experienced “eyes” we need on our local roads. Accordingly, we ask all FDOT District Two Traffic Safety Team members for help reporting traffic safety and engineering concerns.

Engineering Concerns Presentation Video with Examples

As a Traffic Safety Team member, we value your insight and knowledge of your community’s traffic safety issues. For example, some of the safety issues identified include: signs, pavement markings, signals and areas that may benefit from increased enforcement.

Submitting an Engineering Roadway Safety Concern

You and anyone within your organization may submit a traffic safety engineering concern through our Roadway Concerns online form. Please provide your name, email address, and phone number. This information will allow us to contact you to discuss the issue further or get more clarification and provide you with status updates and the final resolution.

Location of Concern

Enter as much information as you can about the location. Please indicate which county the issue is in so it can be forwarded to the appropriate team. If you know which agency owns the roadway, select the appropriate option. If unsure of the agency, simply select Other/Unknown, and we will update the information if needed. For Road Name, identify the primary road. If it is at an intersection, add the name of the intersection (or the closest intersecting road). For better clarification, describe the location using landmarks, direction (North, South, East, West), side of the road, and anything else that would help.

Concern Description

When inputting the concern description, tell us what E-Category:  Engineering, Education, Enforcement, or Emergency Services this concern is related to. Select the primary concern type. And in your own words, describe the roadway concern in as much detail as possible. If you have pictures, videos, or other relevant documents about the issue, please upload them. Sending images or videos is very helpful. Lastly, click the submit button to send your request.  

Submit a NE Florida Engineering Concern

Concern Submissions

After you submit your concern online, a notification is sent to the District 2 Community Traffic Safety Program. The concern is added to the database and assigned to the appropriate agency and E-category.

At the next CTST meeting, we introduce the issue to the team. We investigate the concern in a manner that may include a safety study, operations study, maintenance request, law enforcement deployment/activities, and/or educational initiatives. The issue will be discussed at each subsequent team meeting until the investigation is completed.

We will review the investigation results and the course of action, if any, at a meeting. We will also notify the requestor of the results of the findings and any actions that have or will be taken. If a request is not met or the ending result is not what the requestor was hoping for, please do not take it personally. Of course, we appreciate all of the engineering concerns submitted.

Remember… We Need Your Help

Together, we can solve roadway issues, reduce crashes, and help prevent serious injuries and fatalities. If you see a roadway safety issue in any of our 18 Northeast Florida Counties, please submit it online through the Roadway Concerns form.  Above all, we thank you for your continued commitment to safety!

Additional Resources and Information:

Additionally, you may read this 2018 presentation How to Submit Better Engineering Concerns. Bringing the 4E’s of safety together: Engineering, Education, Emergency Medical Services, and Enforcement.