Recent Wyoming highway safety data reveals a troubling trend -- fewer Albany County drivers and passengers involved in crashes are wearing their seatbelts.

Overall, Albany County's seat belt usage rates are among the highest in Wyoming. But crash figures from 2013-2015 show a decrease in the number and percentage of drivers and passengers who properly use their seat belt.

Of all motor vehicle crashes reported in Albany County in 2013, 1,368 of those drivers -- or 85 percent -- used their seat belt properly. While the percentage remained the same in 2014, the number of actual drivers dropped by 104 to 1,264. That number fell again to 1,199 in 2015, while the proportion declined to 83 percent.

Proper seat belt use by passengers has declined even more quickly, relatively speaking. While 504 passengers involved in crashes in Albany County, or 81 percent, used their seat belts properly in 2013, only 417 (79 percent) did so in 2014 and even fewer -- 350, or 69 percent -- wore their belts correctly in 2015.

The trend is not so pronounced in other parts of Wyoming. In fact, the numbers reflect positive change in several counties, though there were few consistent increases in the number of drivers and passengers buckled up in crashes.

Overall, the figures show fairly consistent seat belt usage statewide, hovering right around 80 percent.

But both Goshen and Sheridan counties saw a decrease in the number of drivers properly wearing their seatbelts, while fewer passengers buckled up in Fremont, Hot Springs, Lincoln and Uinta counties.

"It is imperative to always wear your seatbelt, no matter if you're just heading down to the grocery store or going on a long-distance trip," says Aimee Inama, WYDOT public affairs specialist. "Your seatbelt can save your life."

Fatal crashes have claimed 34 lives on Wyoming highways in 2016, and the overwhelming majority of those killed were not buckled up.

"Of the thirty-four fatalities so far in 2016, twenty of those fatalities had a seat belt available in the vehicle they were in, and they were not wearing that seat belt," says Sgt. David Wagener of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

"Five of the fatalities were wearing their seat belts and still did sustain fatal injuries in the crash," says Wagener. "The remaining fatalities did not have a seat belt available such as a pedestrian, a motorcycle or an ATV crash."

Put another way, Wagener's numbers show that four out of five people killed on Wyoming highways in 2016 were not wearing their seatbelts.

"The likelihood of surviving that crash and not becoming a fatality would have increased significantly, had they had their seatbelts on in those crashes," says Wagener.

More From Laramie Live