With Virginia's unbuckled fatality rate at 52 percent, the Department of Motor Vehicles is pushing harder than ever for everyone to wear a seat belt.

DMV officials and law enforcement officers serving in Lee, Wise and Buchanan counties gathered recently to formulate and execute the Local Heroes Seat Belt Awareness Initiative. The goal is to reduce the number of fatalities on Virginia's roads involving people who are not buckled up.

Officers who are well known in their communities are featured in 60-second videos that urge folks to buckle up when they get behind the wheel. The officers starring in the videos represent the Wise County Sheriff’s Office, Wise Police Department, Norton Police Department, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Pennington Gap Police Department, Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office, Grundy Police Department and Virginia State Police’s Area 29 and 30 offices.

The three Lee, Wise and Buchanan county videos are posted on DMV’s social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and youTube. The videos were also featured in a recent television and online advertising campaign in the three counties.

DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said the local aspects of this project, including the well-known scenery in southwest Virginia and the officers entrenched in their communities, will make it effective. "Not wearing a seat belt is a statewide issue, but we’ve learned the solution is at the local level, and we need to impact individual communities. Trusted law enforcement officers are personally engaging with the people they protect, encouraging them to buckle up, and reminding them their purpose is to save lives on the roadways."

Virginia’s overall seat belt use rate last year was 84 percent. The belt use rate in Buchanan County was 61 percent, 70 percent in Lee and 67 percent in Wise.

“We want to remind everyone that seat belts are the single most effective safety device in a vehicle, and they’re the best defense against distracted, drunk and aggressive drivers,” Holcomb said.

Last year in Virginia, almost 300 of the 819 deaths on the roads were unrestrained, and 3,153 people not wearing safety restraints were injured. Of the 298 unrestrained deaths, 228 were drivers and 70 were passengers; 93 were totally ejected from their vehicles, and 19 were partially ejected.

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