Seat Belt Use Reaches New High

September 13, 2002

Congratulations! Most of you have been wearing your seat belts!

According to a new survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 75% of the people in the United States use seat belts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. This figure represents the highest level of seat belt usage since the survey began in 1994. The increase in seat belt usage may be largely attributed to new laws that require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts. Primary seat belt laws allow police officers to stop and ticket drivers and riders if the vehicle occupants are not wearing seat belts even if no other violation has occurred. Secondary seat belt laws allow police officers to ticket drivers and riders only after another violation has occurred. Seat belt use in states with primary seat belt laws is 80%; in those states with secondary seat belt laws, seat belt use is only 69%.

The overall use of seat belts also depends on where people live and the type of vehicle people drive. People who live in West coast states buckle up the most often (79%). In the Midwest and South, residents buckle up only 74% and 76% of the time. People in the Northeast use their seat belts least often (69%). However, on a positive note, seat belt usage in the Northeast is up 8% over previous years. Drivers and riders in cars, vans and SUVs buckle up at rates between 77% and 79%. Unfortunately, pickup truck occupants use their seat belts at a rate of only 65%.

Keep up the good work...wearing a seat belt is an easy way to prevent an injury during a car accident.

Did you know?

  • 60% of the deaths in motor vehicle accidents occur to those who are not wearing seat belts. Reference

  • About 50% of all traumatic brain injuries are caused by motor vehicle crashes and seat belts can prevent such injuries. Reference

  • Two out of five deaths among the teens in the United States are the result of a motor vehicle crash. Reference

  • According to the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, the following states (and Washington, D.C.) have PRIMARY seat belt laws (as of June 2002):

    Alabama          Iowa          North Carolina          California 
    Louisiana        Oklahoma      Connecticut             Maryland 
    Oregon           Michigan      Texas                   Georgia 
    New Jersey       Washington    Hawaii                  New Mexico   
    Indiana          New York
  • Congratulations to the following US states, which score
    highest for most passengers in vehicles using their seatbelts:

    1. California...87%
    2. New Mexico...85%
    3. Oregon...82%
    4. North Carolina...82%
    5. Hawaii... 80%
    (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration, US Department of Transportation)

  1. National Occupant Protection Use Survey; NHTSA Moving Traffic Study Data
  2. Brain Fitness - visit this Neuroscience for Kids page and take the "Seat Belt" Poll

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