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Mass.Targets Truck,Bus Drivers For Seat Belt Use

By Paul Tuthill


Amherst, MA – Driving a 40 ton truck or a bus load full of people is a big responsibility. In Massachusetts, an initiative is encouraging truck and bus drivers to act responsibly every time they get behind the wheel. WAMC"s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports

Massachusetts State Police are taking a zero-tolerance approach to operators of trucks and buses who are not wearing seat belts. At the same time, a traffic safety research program at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst is targeting truck and bus drivers with an education effort.
According to the latest available national statistics, in 2009, 503 occupants of large trucks died in crashes..70 percent of the people killed were not wearing safety belts. In Massachusetts there are about 2000 crashes a year involving commercial motor vehicles, resulting in between 10 and 30 fatalities, according to Robin Riessman, the associate director of the UMass Amherst Traffic Safety Research Program, or UMassSafe.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration gave a grant to fund the effort to get the word out to truck and bus drivers about the life saving benefits of seat belts.
Riessman says the reaction to the outreach, so far, has been encouraging.
Truck and bus drivers who don't get the message, could get a 50 dollar ticket, according Lt Tom Fitzgerald, who is commander of the Massachusetts State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section.
Fitzgerald said the crackdown began in August and will continue for the month of September.
At one of the region's largest bus companies, Peter Pan, the executive Vice President Robert Schwarz says the company puts spotters..or mystery riders..aboard its buses and drivers who are found not to be wearing seat belts get written up.
Schwarz says Peter Pan is one of the few bus companies in the country that puts seat belts on its buses for passengers.
A survey by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found safety belt use by commercial drivers and their occupants was lowest in the Northeast at 64 percent, and highest in the West at almost 80 percent. It also found seat belt use to be lower in states like Massachusetts, that have so-called secondary enforcement.