- Associated Press - Sunday, July 19, 2015

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - Northwest Missouri has seen a rise in fatal wrecks, and authorities are alarmed because most of the victims weren’t wearing seat belts.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol troop for the area reports a 54 percent increase in vehicle fatalities for the year, the St. Joseph News-Press (https://bit.ly/1e7lfuA ) reports.

“Out of the 16 we have had so far for this year, I’m confident that, if they’d been wearing their seat belts, we would have saved some of those people,” Sgt. Jacob Angle of the patrol’s Troop H said. “We want to serve and protect the citizens of northwest Missouri, but we can’t do that if we can’t convince them to put their seat belts on.”

He said drivers are 10 times more likely to survive a crash if they’re wearing their seat belts and it reduces risk of injury by 75 percent.

Despite their benefits, Missouri drivers use seat belts at a rate of only about 83 percent. Angle says that’s one of the lower rates nationally.

It’s not clear whether the increased rate of fatalities is really due to the inexplicable lack of seat belt use this year, but it’s certainly something the northwest Missouri patrol troop has noticed and thinks is definitely cause for concern.

“There were nine fatalities this time last year in Troop H and currently we’re at 16,” Angle said. “Troop H being a rural area, obviously our fatality totals are going to be some of the lowest in the state. But it is concerning that they’re double almost from last year.”

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Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, https://www.newspressnow.com

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