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U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C.

DOT 173-04
Thursday, September 16, 2004
Contact: Brian Turmail
Telephone: (202) 366-4570

Transportation Secretary Mineta Reports
Record Safety Belt Usage Among Americans on the Road

SEATTLE, WA - A record 80 percent of Americans wear their safety belts while driving or riding in their vehicles, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta announced today during a visit to Seattle. The Secretary, while visiting Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, said the number of Americans wearing their safety belts has increased dramatically over the past few years.

"The Bush Administration's unprecedented focus on highway safety has produced a record high percentage of Americans wearing their safety belts and a record low fatality rate," Mineta said.

In the past four years, safety belt use has increased steadily from 71 percent in 2000 to 80 percent this year. The 80 percent safety belt usage will save 15,200 lives and $50 billion in economic costs associated with traffic related crashes, injuries, and deaths every year, Mineta said.

The Secretary said the success was due in large part to states that have passed primary safety belt laws. Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have primary safety belt laws that allow police officers to stop a motorist solely for not wearing a safety belt.

The Secretary chose to visit Washington for the announcement to tout its success, noting 94 percent of the state's citizens buckle up. Washington passed a primary seatbelt law in 2002 and experienced a 9 percent reduction in overall traffic fatalities since the law was passed, he said.

"It's no coincidence that because 8 out of 10 Americans are wearing their safety belts, we have also achieved the lowest traffic fatality rate on our Nation's highways since record-keeping began 29 years ago," Mineta said.

Today's traffic fatality rate is 1.48 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, a dramatic reduction since 1975 when the rate was 3.35 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

Recognizing that wearing safety belts saves lives and reduces risks of injury and even death, Secretary Mineta, while at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, met with emergency room staff from the hospital who specialize in trauma injury treatment and prevention.

Secretary Mineta was joined by National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge and Dr. Frederick Rivara, Director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center also joined the Secretary for today's announcement.

Click here to view results: Safety Belt Use in 2004 - Overall Results.



U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
1-800-424-9153 (TTY)