Missouri drivers not buckling up

New numbers out today show that Missourians are still recalcitrant about buckling up.

The latest survey numbers show that about 77 percent of Missourians are wearing their seat belts, almost 7 percent less than the national average. It was up 1 percentage point from last year, according to figures released by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Generally, traffic experts think it will be hard for Missouri to improve its seat belt use much more without a law that makes it a primary offense. Currently, you can only be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt in Missouri or Kansas if you’re pulled over for another offense.

The state’s seat-belt use rate has largely hovered in the 70 percent range since 2003. In 1999, the state had a seat belt use rate of only 60 percent.

The biggest problem with seat belt use is in southwest Missouri. A survey of a 10-county area near Joplin and Springfield had a 66 percent use rate, 11 points lower than the statewide average.