The judge told Rowell a verbal warning to a first-time offender "is enough," arguing that it "carries the same weight" as a fine. Judges in adjoining counties don't share Loy's philosophy, Rowell reports. The highest rate of seat-belt ticket dismissals in those counties was only 22 percent, compared to 82 percent in Casey County, a very rural, hilly, non-coal Appalachian county in south-central Kentucky.
Law enforcement officers are concerned that the Casey rate is so high, especially since in 49 percent of Kentucky's 720 traffic deaths last year, the deceased weren't wearing seat belts. "Wearing a seat belt is the cheapest life insurance you can have," said Trooper William Gregory, the regional Kentucky State Police spokesman. "The numbers indicate that a failure to write a citation and then not have the courts enforce the citation enables the public to drive without fear of consequences which leads to a number of automobile fatalities." (Read more)
Seat belt use in rural areas has been historically low, even though data has shown rural roads are more dangerous than in other parts of the U.S. A 2010 Centers for Disease Control study found that 68.3 percent of people in rural counties reported wearing seat belts, compared to 87.4 percent in metropolitan areas.