In 1987 the percentage of Missoulians who regularly used their seat belts was only 34 percent.

Let that sink in.

Now, fast forward to 2019 and listen to the numbers from Steve Schmidt, DUI Task Force Coordinator and Buckle Up Montana Coordinator.

“The numbers have definitely changed over the years,” said Schmidt. “Thankfully, we’re up to around 92 percent of Missoulians who are regularly wearing their seat belts right now. I went out and conducted the surveys personally at 11 different locations throughout Missoula, and found that only about eight percent in all vehicle types are not wearing seat belts, which is still a surprising number.”

Schmidt said the number of seat best users in pickup trucks is slightly lower.

“We are at about 14 percent who are not wearing their seat belts in pickup trucks,” he said. “I think maybe people do feel safer in that larger vehicle, even though pickup trucks do have a tendency to be able to roll over more often since they have a higher center of gravity, still it’s not the safest place to be without a seat belt in any vehicle regardless of the size.”

Schmidt said seat belts save lives by counteracting the natural laws of physics.

“Going back to your junior high science classes, if you take an object and multiply the weight of that object by the speed of that object and that’s how much force is would have if it hit something,” he said. “So, if you had a 100 pound child and they were traveling 30 miles per hour, that’s a 3,000 pound force if you were to come to a sudden stop. Now, imagine if you were 215 pounds and traveling 45 miles per hour, how much force would be hitting the steering wheel or the dashboard, or even another person who was buckled in.”

That number is 9,675 pounds of force.

“All occupants of the vehicle need to be wearing their seat belts to ensure everyone’s safety,” said Schmidt.