HONOLULU (KHON2) — Seat belt use trended down in 2021, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

Recent figures showed the number of island drivers who buckled up throughout 2021 fell below 95% for the first time since 2016.

Download the free KHON2 app for iOS or Android to stay informed on the latest news

Officials said Hawaii is still above the 90.4% national average, but it is no time for complacency.

“A little surprised, you know,” said Jai Cunningham, HDOT spokesman. “We always do well when it comes to national numbers, we’re always right at the top, which is a great thing. But we can’t get complacent and to fall below 95% is not a good trend.”

Police said a man was critically injured after colliding with a guardrail near the Kunia Road off-ramp in Waipahu around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 8. Authorities said he was not wearing a seatbelt.
HDOT numbers from 2021 showed 63% of those who died in vehicles were not strapped in.

“When you see that number, it really is sobering because those people — if they had their seatbelt on — there’s a chance they could have survived that and there’s a chance we could bring those numbers down,” Cunningham said.

“Your best chance of survival, your best chance to walk away from that, is to have a seatbelt on. It’s that simple.”

Jai Cunningham, Hawaii Department of Transportation spokesman

The manager of the trauma program at Kapiolani Medical Center said she has seen too many preventable injuries.

“Like a deep laceration, across your deep vessels from being ejected out of the vehicle and the glass particles,” said Alissa Lo, Kapiolani Medical Center trauma program manager. “Lots of very bad injuries that could simply have been prevented by the proper use of a seatbelt.”

The Honolulu Police Department said they have already given out about 1,300 seatbelt citations as of June — compared to 1,400 seatbelt citations through all of 2021. HPD’s Traffic Division said those who think a seatbelt is a personal choice have not seen someone who has been ejected.

“You might’ve actually killed somebody by not wearing your seatbelt and becoming that projectile,” said Sgt. Thomas Billins with HPD’s Traffic Division. “As well as your family that’s going to miss you because of the choice that you made not to wear your seatbelt.”

Check out more news from around Hawaii

Seatbelt citations cost over $100 in every county, so remember “Click It Or Ticket” if wearing one for the sake of safety is not enough.