New report finds Iowa seat belt use up substantially - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New report finds Iowa seat belt use up substantially

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The Iowa Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau finds 93% of Iowans wear their seatbelts- up from about 18% in 1985, the year before the seat belt law took effect.

That new report finding Iowans have changed their seat belt use habits is encouraging news for those looking to curb today's big danger on the roads, driving distracted.

Maureen Pagels once found herself in good company among those who did not buckle up on the roads.

"It was no big deal, you just get in your car, start your key and away you go," she said.

But like many others, she made it a point to change that habit shortly after Iowa's seatbelt law went into effect.

"You heard about all the accidents and how seatbelts save lives, and I just started getting used to it," Pagels said.

Times have changed and so have some of driving's dangers.

One study finds a driver is as much as 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident when texting and driving.

Yet in spite of the facts, many have refused to put their phones down.

Like seatbelt use beforehand, researchers at the University of Iowa say getting drivers to stop texting will take a greater public awareness of the risks.

"There have been laws passed to ban texting, but in some ways those laws came a little late. They came after the horse was out of the barn," said Susan Chrysler, Director of Research  National Advanced Driving Simulator on the University of Iowa's Oakdale campus.

Through Iowa's new laws, and efforts like KWWL's Text Later campaign, researchers believe one day cell phone use while driving will be frowned upon.

"I think that behavior is what changes just like 30 years ago a child may say 'come on Mom, put that seatbelt on.'"

No better an example of that potential for change than Pagels, who now never goes anywhere without her seatbelt.

"I don't even have to mention it, especially with my grand kids. They just put them on right away."

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