More Victorians are dying in the regions than on suburban Melbourne streets because they are not buckling up, data reveals.
While seatbelts are a life-saving device, statistics from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) highlight that dozens of people who have died on Victorian roads in recent years were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision.
Of all the lives lost on the state's roads during the past 10 years, 268 Victorians were not wearing their seatbelts during the time of the crash.
Shockingly, 67 per cent of these people (179) were killed in regional Victoria. Most (203) were drivers.
Seatbelts have saved thousands of lives since they were made compulsory to wear more than 50 years ago.
More than 800 people had died on Victorian roads in 1970 but after wearing a seatbelt was made mandatory, the number of lives lost reduced to 619 by 1975.
While the TAC's Head of Road Safety, Samantha Cockfield, said that the majority of people did "the right thing and buckle[d] up", more than 20 Victorians who died on the state's roads last year were not wearing a seatbelt.
It is particularly worrying that people are electing not to buckle up in regional areas, where Ms Cockfield added that people travelled longer distances and at much higher speeds.
"A seatbelt is the most basic of life-saving devices we have on our cars - every car has them so there is no excuse, it is a one or two-second click every time you get in your car," Ms Cockfield said.
A seatbelt is the most basic of life-saving devices we have on our cars - every car has them so there is no excuse, it is a one or two-second click every time you get in your carSamantha Cockfield
Failing to wear a seatbelt has been linked to the number of road fatalities for several years now. In the past five years, an average of 24 vehicle occupants (20 per cent) have been killed each year while not wearing a seatbelt.
In 2019, when 266 lives were lost on Victorian roads, 31 vehicle occupants who died were unbelted.
And while coronavirus restrictions meant the roads were quieter for much of last year, 213 lives were still lost. Of these, 23 people killed were unbelted.
In this timeframe, the vast majority have been male (around 87 per cent) and more than half were aged between 30 and 59.
Only days into the new year, two people have died as a result of collisions in which they were reportedly not wearing seatbelts.
Assistant Commissioner Murphy said failing to wear a seatbelt could have serious consequences.
"We have seen people ejected from vehicles and we've seen impact injuries where people have gone through windscreens," she said of collisions where people have not been buckled up.
"If you are wearing a seatbelt you are much less likely to be involved in a serious injury or death collision."
She said farmers travelling on typically quiet roads and at low speeds also needed to wear seatbelts.
"It doesn't matter what speed you are doing if someone else hits you or you roll down the hill.
"My message to people is to belt up - put your seatbelt on to save your life."
Assistant Commissioner Murphy said it was locals who were dying close to home.
"If country people think that country people aren't dying on country roads, they're wrong.
"It's not metropolitan people who are dying on a country road, it is absolutely locals and in addition to seatbelts I am asking people to slow down and be mindful of the conditions of country roads in terms of the infrastructure that exists."
It's not metropolitan people who are dying on a country road, it is absolutely locals and in addition to seatbelts I am asking people to slow down and be mindful of the conditions of country roads in terms of the infrastructure that existsAssistant Commissioner for Road Policing Libby Murphy
She added that police would continue to enforce the law.
While drivers and adults are responsible for buckling up themselves, it is also their responsibility to ensure passengers under the age of 16 are too.
"We will continue to advocate so people understand that it is an offence - not because police want to revenue raise but because there is a known causal link with [not wearing a seatbelt and] trauma on our roads."
One of the people who put pressure on the government to make wearing seatbelts compulsory in Victoria more than 50 years ago was Donald Gibb.
That two of the three people who were killed on Victorian roads this year were reportedly not wearing seatbelts has led Mr Gibb, who last July established Road Safety Promotion Australia (ROSPA), to request support for his 'Belt Up and Live' poster and sticker campaign to help to save lives.
He said introducing mandatory seatbelt wearing significantly and immediately impacted the number of fatalities recorded.
"In 1973 all Australian states and territories had introduced the mandatory seatbelt wearing legislation, resulting by the end of 1974 in driver and passengers fatalities in Australia being reduced by 363 from the record high in 1970," he said.
For more information about ROSPA and to view the posters, visit: rospaaustralia.org