Saskatchewan Seatbelt Law Turns 40

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Thousands of lives saved. It's as easy as 1, 2, 3 – click It!

Regina, SK (June 29, 2017) – The year was 1977. The Toronto Blue Jays played their first game. Elvis Presley died. "Star Wars" introduced us to Luke, Leia and Darth Vader. And a new law came into effect that would eventually save thousands of lives on Saskatchewan roads.

Saskatchewan was the third province in Canada to mandate seatbelts, following Ontario and Quebec, which introduced the law the year before.

"Seatbelt legislation has come a long way over the last 40 years (pdf, 68 kb)," said Earl Cameron, Executive Vice-President of the Auto Fund. "When initially introduced, only drivers, front-seat passengers and children under 16 years of age were required to wear them. Today, it includes everyone in the vehicle, and there are additional child safety seat requirements for children under the age of seven."

SGI QuickFacts: Occupant Restraints

QuickFacts on occupant restraints (SGI)

Manufacturers weren't even required to install seatbelts in vehicles until 1971. At that time, only passengers in the front seat had to wear them. Over time, it became illegal to wear the shoulder strap behind you or under your arm. Later, there would be requirements for child safety seats and booster seats.

As seatbelt use became more prevalent, thousands of lives were saved. But it did take some time. In 1986, (the earliest year for which SGI has data) there were 111 vehicle occupants killed in Saskatchewan collisions who weren't wearing a seatbelt (or not buckled in properly) and 2,699 were injured for the same reason. These numbers represented 61 per cent of all deaths and 35 per cent of injuries among vehicle occupants in 1986.

By 2016, that number had dropped to 25 deaths and 155 injuries. In 27 per cent of vehicle occupant fatalities and three per cent of injuries in Saskatchewan last year, the person killed either wasn't wearing a seatbelt or wasn't buckled up properly.

"There are still too many fatalities that could have been prevented if a seatbelt had been worn," said Cameron, "Wearing a seatbelt reduces your risk of being injured or killed in a crash by about 50 per cent. It takes only three seconds to buckle up - 1, 2, 3 - click."

Transport Canada has provided studies throughout the years on seatbelt use. It increased from 25 to 57 per cent in 1978, the first full year of the law. Enforcement increased their focus on seatbelts in 1988, which increased seatbelt use about 90 percent by 1990. In 2016, roughly 93 percent of Saskatchewan vehicle occupants regularly use seat belts, although statistics show that seat belt use continues to be an issue on First Nations and in some rural areas.

Fatality Injury Chart

Percentage of occupant fatalities or injuries where restraint was improperly used or not used (SGI)

Even though the numbers have been significantly reduced over the past four decades, non-use or improper use is still one of the top contributing factors in Saskatchewan traffic fatalities today. The majority of fatal crashes where occupants are unbuckled are single vehicle collisions, especially rollovers. When a vehicle rolls, unbelted occupants are violently tossed around like rag dolls, becoming heavy flying objects that could hurt or kill other occupants or be ejected through windows, resulting in severe lacerations, paralysis or even death. SGI's Rollover Simulator demonstrates this.

In 1977, the fine for not wearing a seatbelt was $20. Today, it will cost you $175 and three safety rating points. It is also the driver's responsibility to ensure all passengers under 16 are properly buckled up with a seatbelt or in the appropriate child safety seat for their age and size. Drivers can be ticketed for each unrestrained child in the vehicle.

Prices Now And Then

Common costs in 1977 versus 2017 (SGI)

Although seatbelt convictions have reduced by half since 2011, there were still 4,122 drivers convicted for not wearing a seatbelt last year, plus 266 convictions for not having children under the age of seven properly restrained. As child safety seats can be complicated, parents and caregivers are invited to attend a free car seat clinic to learn how to properly install the seat into their vehicle and ensure their child is #SafeAndSnug.

Buckle up, every time – it could save your life.

SGI's website has more safety information on seatbelts and child car seats. Follow SGI on Facebook and Twitter for safety tips to #TakeCareOutThere.

Backgrounder: Evolution of Seatbelt Law

Saskatchewan seatbelt law turns 40 (SGI) – Download PDF.

About SGI CANADA

Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) is the province's self-sustaining auto insurance fund. SGI operates 21 claims centres and five salvage centres across Saskatchewan with a head office in Regina. SGI also works with a network of nearly 400 motor licence issuers across the province. Customers can now do some transactions online. For more information, visit www.sgicanada.ca.

Source: SGI CANADA