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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — In April, Columbus County was ranked the unhealthiest in the state. Now county residents are considered the least likely in the state to wear a seat belt.

A survey by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program shows only 75 percent of drivers and passengers in Columbus County use their seat belts. That’s the lowest out of all counties surveyed.

‘”I guess it kind of goes hand in hand with us being rated last as far as healthwise,” Columbus County native Harry Edwards said.

Edwards says he consistently wears his seat belt, but he can see why so many in Columbus County don’t. A lot of it, he says, is because the county is so rural.

“We have so many short trip drivers, that to them it’s an inconvenience to buckle up and unbuckle,” Edwards said. “In their mind, they think, ‘I’m just going a short distance.'”

The state says in the past five years, there have been 47 deaths in the county related to not wearing seat belts. This year alone, Highway Patrol says more than 1,600 drivers have been ticketed for seat belt violations. That’s up 30 percent from last year.

All next week, Highway Patrol will crack down on seat belt violations with 14 troopers on roads throughout Columbus County.

A seat belt ticket conviction is a $160.

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