augusta free press news

Study shows correlation between seat belt usage, highway fatalities

interstate road
(© monticellllo –

Six percent of Virginia adults report that they don’t wear a seat belt all the time in cars, but that sliver of us accounts for nearly half of those killed in car crashes.

The total number of those who died in crashes in Virginia who weren’t belted in the three-year period 2016-2018: 953, according to researchers at CoPilot, a car shopping app, who analyzed restraint use statistics from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

They make up 47.3 percent of all deaths from car crashes in the study period, according to the analysis.

The number of motor vehicle fatalities has been trending down for decades, driven in large part because more people are wearing seat belts. In 2004, more than 19,000 occupants killed in car crashes were unrestrained at the time, compared to 12,426 in 2018.

That’s a drop of 34.6 percent, so, significant.

Despite improvements in restraint use overall, rates vary widely by gender. According to the CDC, men are twice as likely as women to report not wearing a seat belt (8.5 percent compared to 4.2 percent). Men are also about 2.5 times as likely as women to die in car crashes, based on traffic fatality data collected by the NHTSA from 2016-2018.

Among all occupants killed in car crashes, men are about three times as likely as women to have not been wearing a seat belt.

Location also plays a role in the widespread adoption of seat belts. In general, states with large rural populations are more likely to report large proportions of residents not wearing seat belts.

Adults in New Hampshire and South Dakota — which have some of the smallest urban populations — are more than twice as likely as average to report not wearing seat belts (17.2 percent and 15.0 percent, respectively).

By contrast, California, Oregon, and Washigton — where more than eight in 10 residents live in urban areas — report the highest rates of restraint use in the country.

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on CoPilot’s website: