Houma-Thibodaux area ranks third in seatbelt safety

HOUMA, LA (WVUE) - Elisabeth Pesson carries precious cargo, so strapping in is automatic.

"I put my kid in the car," said Pesson. "I put his seatbelt on, I tighten it, I get in the car, I put my seatbelt on, then I start the engine."

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says more are people following that safety rule in the bayou region. Its annual survey says 87.8 percent of drivers and front seat passengers in the Houma-Thibodaux area buckle up. The area is third in the state for seatbelt safety, just behind Lake Charles and Shreveport.

"I didn't think people care, to be honest," admitted Pesson. "A lot of people just get in their car and go."

Officer Michael Toups with the Houma Police Department says he's noticed the positive change in the last few years.

"I do see a lot more people using them. It's harder to come by seatbelt violations," said Toups. "The people we do pull over for that, they know right away why you're pulling them over."

Statistics show just by strapping in, the risk of a crash-related injury or death drops by almost half.

The department says officers are more aggressive when it comes to seatbelts, especially for back seat passengers and children.

"A booster seat is the most neglected step," said Toups. "A lot of parents go straight from a car seat to the vehicle seatbelt. A booster seat boosts the child up to get the right fit, instead of having the seatbelt across their neck or next to their face."

All things, Pesson wants to pass on to her child.

"I want to teach my kid to wear a seatbelt," said Pesson. "He's at the age where he tries to undo it."

Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved.