Life and Daily Living: Seat-belt use at an all-time high

Story by Chris Graham

Eighty-three percent of vehicle occupants are using their seat belts during daylight hours, according to a new U.S. Department of Transportation report released last week.

That’s up from 82 percent last year and represents an all-time high in terms of measurable use.

“More and more Americans are realizing that the mere seconds it takes to buckle up can mean the difference between life and death,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 270 lives are saved annually for every 1 percent increase in seat-belt use. High-visibility law-enforcement efforts such as the national Click It or Ticket campaigns that are also conducted locally in the Valley are an important contributing factor in that respect, acting NHTSA administrator David Kelly said.

“We are committed to supporting state and local law enforcement in their front-line efforts to encourage belt use,” Kelly said.


Interesting tidbits from the report:

– According to the report, 84 percent of passenger car occupants are buckling up. Even more people, 86 percent, are buckling up in vans and SUVs while pickup truck occupants buckled up 74 percent of the time.

– The report finds that safety belt use increased or remained level in every region of the country, with the highest use being reported in the West (93 percent), and the lowest in the Midwest and Northeast (79 percent). The South reported 81 percent.

– The report reveals that states with primary belt laws are averaging about 13 percentage points higher for seat belt use (88 percent) than states with secondary laws (75 percent). In primary belt law states, officers can issue a citation for a seat-belt violation alone. In secondary law states, seat belt citations are allowed only after a stop for another violation.

– The report also notes that belt use on expressways is now at an estimated 90 percent while belt use on lower-speed “surface” streets remains at 80 percent.

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