The Facts To Buckle Up Americad Download PDF version

Safety Belts and Teens
2003 Report

Teens* have the highest fatality rate in motor vehicle crashes than any other age group.1 There are many reasons; 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 drugs. Studies also have shown that teens may be easily distracted while driving.2 One key reason for high traffic fatalities among this age group is that they have lower safety belt use rates than adults.3 Because teens have an increased exposure to potentially fatal traffic crashes, it is imperative that efforts to increase safety belt use among this age group be given the highest priority. In addition, the youth population has increased by more than 12 percent since 1993, and is expected to increase by another seven percent by 2005.4 As this age group increases as a percentage of the population, the personal and societal costs associated with deaths and injuries from motor vehicle crashes also will rise.

Teens Are At Risk

Seat Belts Save Lives And Dollars

Strong Safety Belt Laws Can Make a Difference

Safety Belt Enforcement Programs

Many Organizations Support Strong Safety Belt Laws for Teens

Many organizations have partnered with NHTSA to help increase the safety belt use among teens because they realize that by doing so, thousands of lives will be saved and millions of injuries will be prevented. These organizations include:


  1. Traffic Safety Facts 2001 (Book), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 484, pg. 21.
  2. Williams, Alan F. 2001. Teenage Passengers in Motor Vehicle Crashes: A Summary of Current Research. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  3. NHTSA Research Notes, August 2001. DOT HS 809 318.
  4. U.S. Census Bureau
  5. National Center for Health Statistics of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1999 data.
  6. Traffic Safety Facts 2001. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. DOT HS 809 484. Table 68, pg. 103.
  7. Traffic Safety Facts 2001. Younger Driver, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 483.
  8. Traffic Safety Facts 2000. Younger Driver, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 336.
  9. Status Report, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Volume 37, Number 6, June 2002, page 2.
  10. Baker, Susan P.; Braver, Elisa R.; Chen, Li-Hui; Pantula, Janella F.; and Massie, Dawn L. 1998. Motor Vehicle Occupant Deaths among Hispanic and Black Children and Teenagers. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 152:1209-12.
  11. Teen Drivers. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. CDC, 2002.
  12. Traffic Safety Facts 2001, Overview, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 476, p. 10.
  13. Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatality and Injury Estimates for 2000, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, November 2001.
  14. Traffic Safety Facts, 2000, Occupant Protection, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 327.
  15. The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2000. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 446, p. 55.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Safety Belt and Helmet Use in 2002 - Overall Results.  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. DOT HS 809 500. September 2002.
  18. Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey, 2000, Volume Two, p.147. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT HS 809 389.
  19. McCartt, A.T., and Shabanova, V.I. (2002). Teenage Seat Belt Use: White Paper. The National Safety Council’s Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign.
  20. Jonah, B.A., Dawson, N.E., and Smith, G.A. (1982). Effects of a selective traffic enforcement program on safety belt usage. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67, 89-96.
  21. Williams, A.F., Lund, A.K., Preusser, D.F., Blomberg, R.D. (1987). Results of a set safety belt use law enforcement and publicity campaign in Elmira, New York. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 19, 243-249.
  22. Solomon, M.G., Nissen, W.J., and Preusser, D.F. (1999). Occupant protection special traffic enforcement program evaluation (Final Report). Washington DC: U.S. Department of Transportation; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, report number DOT HS 808 884.
  23. Williams, A.F., Wells, J.K., McCartt, A.T., Preusser, D.F. (2000) "Buckle Up NOW!" an enforcement program to achieve high safety belt use. Journal of Safety Research, 31, 195-201.
  24. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, November 2002.

*for the purposes of this fact sheet, the term "teen" refers to young people ages 16-20 unless otherwise specified

DOT HS 809 578
March 2003