A Sergeant with Manitoba RCMP says the number of crashes they respond to, where someone has died who was not wearing a seatbelt, keeps climbing year after year.
Sergeant Paul Manaigre says so far this year, 29 individuals have died who were not wearing a seatbelt. There were 27 for all of 2021, 27 for all of 2020, and 25 in 2019.
When it comes to victims dying in crashes in Manitoba within RCMP jurisdiction, Sergeant Manaigre says typically one-third are attributed to not wearing a seatbelt, one-third involve alcohol and the other one-third involve other elements such as distracted driving. When you consider that RCMP have reported 80 fatalities on roadways in 2022, the fact that 29 of those individuals were not wearing a seatbelt, would be slightly more than that one-third.
"A lot of them would have survived if they had been wearing it," says Sergeant Manaigre. "It's a number that we can definitely bring down if people were just to get into that habit of wearing it."
When it comes to fatal crashes, RCMP will include in the press release whether the individual had neglected to wear a seatbelt.
"If we know for sure a seatbelt is not in use, we like to put it (in the press release)," notes Sergeant Manaigre. "It's not to place victim on the deceased or anything. The idea is to get the message across to the public that look, this person, unfortunately, has passed away because (they) didn't wear it. So we're trying to educate people on that side of it."
Part of educating the public also means running enforcement campaigns on select weekends such as Thanksgiving or around Christmas. He notes a surprising number of people will drive up to the checkstop, not wearing their seatbelt. Sergeant Manaigre notes for some people to get the message you have to hit them in the pocketbook, noting the fine is more than $200.
One might question whether some of these victims in fatal crashes were in fact wearing their seatbelt, but in the course of the collision, the seatbelt let go. Sergeant Manaigre says it is always obvious when this is the case.
"If someone is involved in a very serious collision, there will be injuries consistent with wearing it," he notes.
Sergeant Manaigre says there will also be impressions left on the seatbelt if it had been in use and further to that, the data control modules seized from the vehicle will also clarify whether or not the seatbelt was in use.
Sergeant Manaigre says he thinks, for the most part, when a motorist is not wearing a seatbelt, it is simply that they have not formed that habit. Many fatal collisions happen on major highways and he says for that reason you can not make the excuse that an individual was not wearing their seatbelt because they were just making a quick run to the store.
"If you have the habit of not putting it on, well it's hard to break now," he says. "Seatbelts save lives so just put it on."
Being in the Christmas season, Sergeant Manaigre says there will be more people travelling and he urges all motorists to buckle up. He notes for officers investigating a fatal crash, the worst part is breaking the news to family.
"I've investigated dozens and dozens of fatalities," he notes. "I've had to do numerous, next-of-kin notifications and it's just the worst thing about this job."
Sergeant Manaigre says to wear your seatbelt and reduce the chances that a police officer needs to show up at the door of your family members to break the tragic news.