The number of WA motorists not wearing seatbelts has increased dramatically, according to research that shows about 60,000 drivers are playing Russian roulette on the State's roads.
The Office of Road Safety has launched a media campaign in response to the results of its latest quarterly survey of motorists, which showed 4 per cent admitted they did not always wear a seatbelt.
An Office of Road Safety spokeswoman said it was a big rise on the 3 per cent of drivers who made the same admission in each of the past six surveys. The increase equated to an extra 15,000 motorists not wearing seatbelts.
Road Safety Council chairman D'Arcy Holman said he was concerned by the survey, which ran from July to September last year.
He said it highlighted the importance of public awareness campaigns to address the issue.
Research showed drivers and passengers who did not wear a seatbelt, which has been a legal requirement since 1971, were at least 10 times more likely to be killed in a crash.
Latest police figures show 24 per cent of the 121 vehicle occupants who died on WA roads last year were not wearing a seatbelt - the same ratio as in 2010.
Of the 29 deaths last year where the victim was not wearing a seatbelt, 23 of them happened on regional roads.
Professor Holman said although the proportion of seatbelt-linked road deaths had not increased last year, a continued drop in motorists wearing the restraints would likely cause a spike in road trauma. "Seatbelts prevent occupants from being ejected from a vehicle, reduce the time for the occupants to come to a stop in a crash, spread the impact force over a greater area of the body and minimise the contact of the driver or passengers with the interior of the vehicle," he said.
Police Minister Rob Johnson said the State Government had targeted its seatbelt safety campaigns at regional motorists.
"We have seen all too often how tragic the consequences can be when drivers and passengers are not properly restrained," he said.
The campaign launched on April 4 features advertisements on GWN and WIN television stations.
Shadow police minister Michelle Roberts said the survey results were a "reflection that the Government has neglected this issue and taken it for granted that people just belt up automatically".Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre research fellow Peter Pallamara said their recent analysis showed not wearing seatbelts was a particular problem among WA's indigenous population.
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