By Karen Morfitt
DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation is teaming up with the ride share company Lyft to push their “Beware of the Beltless” campaign which is aimed at passengers who choose not to buckle up.
According to CDOT, 434 people died in passenger vehicle crashes in 2017, more than 50 percent of them were not wearing seat belts.
“An unbuckled passenger can increase your chance of being seriously injured or killed in a car crash by 40 percent even if you are buckled up,” said Sam Cole, Safety Communications Manager for CDOT.
Christine Haskell knows the impact an unrestrained passenger can have in a crash all too well.
“The driver of my car went 85 in a 35 and ran a flashing red light, and we were t-boned at an intersection by a driver going 55 mph,” Haskell said.
She was 17 years old at the time and riding in the back seat while wearing her seat belt. The teen sitting next to her was not.
“Momentum forced him against me and that basically used my body as a human airbag,” she said.
The impact from the unrestrained passenger left her with a broken collar bone and forced her head through the side window; permanently damaging her hip, spine and neck.
“You are not just a risk to yourself, you can potentially harm or kill anyone in the vehicle around you,” she said.
Stories like Haskell’s have become common in Colorado – so much in fact that CDOT launched its “Beware of the Beltless” campaign.
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The first phase featured a series of powerful and somewhat frightening ads with messaging like, “is a killer in your passenger seat,” and “save yourself, make a friend buckle up.”
Last month, CDOT collaborated with the ride sharing service Lyft for phase two: hiring an actor to dress in full beach gear to play the role of a “Lyft guard.”
The guard informed unsuspecting riders of the risks that come with not buckling up.
All joking aside – Haskell hopes everyone will take the message seriously.
“My job was to tell everybody else to buckle up, and one time that I made an exception I’m paying for it for the rest of my life,” she said.
Colorado is one of 16 states without a primary seat belt law. CDOT says when primary seat belt laws are passed seat belt usage increases anywhere from five to 10 percent.
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.