the facts - bucklle up america

Safety Belts and Older Teens–2005 Report

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Teens* have higher fatality and injury rates in motor vehicle crashes than any other age group.1 This may be attributable to both driving inexperience and a greater propensity for risk taking behaviors. For instance, while teens are learning the new skills needed for driving, many frequently engage in high-risk behaviors such as speeding and/or driving after using alcohol or other drugs, and not wearing their safety belts. Studies also have shown teens are easily distracted while driving, especially by other teen passengers.2 3 Safety belt use is one of the most effective measures to decrease injuries and deaths in a crash; unfortunately, teens are less likely to be buckled up than any other age group.4

Teens Are At Risk

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States.5

  • In 2003, 5,240 teens were killed in passenger-vehicle crashes, and 458,000 teens were injured.6

  • Sixty-three percent of the fatally injured 16-to-20-year-old passenger vehicle occupants were unrestrained, compared to 55 percent for adults 21 or older.7

  • In 2003, the fatality rate (per 100,000 population) in motor vehicle crashes for 16-to-20-year-olds was more than twice the rate than for all other ages combined (25.7 versus 11.4 respectively).8

  • From 1997 to 2003, the fatality rate (per 100,000 population) in motor vehicle crashes for 16-to-20-year-olds was approximately seven times the rate for 8-to-15-year-olds.9

  • Drivers are less likely to use restraints when they have been drinking. In 2003, 65 percent of the young drivers (15 to 20 years old) of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking were unrestrained. Of the young drivers who had been drinking and were killed in crashes, 74 percent were unrestrained.10

  • During 2003, a teen died in a traffic crash an average of once every hour on weekends (weekends are defined as 6 p.m. Friday through 5:59 a.m. Monday) and nearly once every two hours during the week.11

  • In 2003, 34 percent (1,782) of fatally injured teens were completely or partially ejected from a passenger vehicle, compared with 27 percent of those fatally injured for all ages combined.12

  • Male teens are less likely to wear safety belts than female teens. In 2003, a greater number of males (7.7 percent) reported they were likely to rarely or never use safety belts when driving compared with females (2.8 percent). More males (26.4 percent) than females (23.6 percent) also reported that they had not worn their safety belts within the past week.13

  • A recent medical study examined motor vehicle fatality exposure rates and found the rate at which African American and Hispanic male teenagers (13 to 19 years old) are fatally injured in a motor vehicle crash is nearly twice as high as the comparable rate for white male teenagers.14

Safety Belts Save Lives and Dollars

  • In 2003, safety belts saved society an estimated $63 billion in medical care, lost productivity, and other injury-related costs. In this same year, the needless deaths and injuries from safety belt nonuse caused an estimated $18 billion in economic costs to society.15

  • It is estimated safety belts saved more than 14,900 lives in the United States in 2003. Yet, during this same year, 56 percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes were unrestrained. If all passenger vehicle occupants (over 4 years old) wore safety belts, more than 6,000 additional lives could have been saved.16

  • Research has shown that lap/shoulder belts, when used properly, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent. For light-truck occupants, safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 60 percent and moderate-to-critical injury by 65 percent.17

  • Safety belts should always be worn, even when riding in vehicles equipped with air bags. Air bags are designed to work with safety belts, not alone. In 2003, an estimated 2,488 lives were saved by air bags.18