According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration North Dakota holds the dubious honor of not only being one of just 14 states who has seen a recent increase in traffic collision related fatalities, but also has seen the largest increase.

The NHTSA data shows that 2011 traffic fatalities in North Dakota rose 41 percent, far more than any other state. In 2010 the state had 105 traffic collision related fatalities. In 2011 the number of traffic related fatalities increased to 148.

There are a few factors which might help explain the increase in traffic collision related deaths in North Dakota. For instance, the state saw a 10 percent increase in the miles driven within the state. According to the North Dakota Department of Transportation there were a few other specific factors which affected the number of people killed in vehicle collisions in 2011.

Specifically, of the people killed in vehicle collisions in the state that year almost 70 percent were not wearing a seat belt. This makes seat belt usage the primary factor. About half of those people killed were involved in vehicle collisions in which one of the two drivers was under the influence of alcohol and nearly a third of those fatal crashes involved excessive speed.

North Dakota is known for its wide open spaces which can sometimes provide the illusion for drivers that they are the only person on the road. However, as the statistics show there are enough drivers on the road that they can (and often do) collide, with disastrous results. It is also important to note that in the vast majority of these-more than half-if the person had merely put on their seat belt their life may have been saved.

It only takes a moment to fasten a seat belt and it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to keeping you safe and secure in the event of a vehicle collision. We hope North Dakotans will recognize the part they play in keeping themselves safe in this regard and start buckling up.