Seat Belts


One of the safest choices drivers or passengers can make is to buckle up. In 2015, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 13,941 lives. Many Americans understand the lifesaving value of the seat belt – the national use rate is at 90.1 percent – but nearly 27.5 million still don’t buckle up. Find out about the potentially fatal consequences of not wearing a seat belt and what you can do to make sure you and your family are properly buckled up every time.

NHTSA in Action

It's Life or Death

48 % Percentage of Passenger Vehicle Occupants Killed in 2015 Who Were Unrestrained

Seat belts save lives. They reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and light-truck occupants by 60 percent.

Of the 35,092 people killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2015, 48 percent were not wearing seat belts.

In 2015 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 13,941 lives – and could have saved an additional 2,814 people if they had been wearing their seat belts.

In total, seat belts have saved 344,448 lives since 1975, when NHTSA first began recording this data. If everyone had been wearing a seat belt since, an additional 381,787 lives could have been saved.

During a vehicle crash, being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas being completely thrown out of a vehicle is almost always deadly.

NHTSA in Action

Proper Seat Belt Use Is Vital

Seat belts save lives, which is why it’s vital that we all buckle up—every ride, front seat and back. Wearing a seat belt properly is also essential.

Follow these guidelines when you buckle up: 

The lap belt and shoulder belt are secured across the pelvis and rib cage, which are more able to withstand crash forces than other parts of your body.

Place the shoulder belt across the middle of your chest and away from your neck.

The lap belt rests across your hips, not your stomach.

NEVER put the shoulder belt behind your back or under an arm.

Find out when your child is ready to use an adult seat belt and learn about seat belt safety when you’re pregnant. You can find these and other tips for keeping kids safe in and around cars at NHTSA’s Parents Central.

NHTSA in Action

On the Rise, Saving Lives

Seat belt use in the United States has steadily increased – from 70.7 percent in 2000 to 90.1 percent in 2016. Rates differ significantly across the country with one key factor at play: States that have primary seat belt laws, where you can be pulled over solely for not wearing a seat belt, have higher seat belt use rates (91.2% versus 78.6%).

NHTSA in Action

Educating the Public

As part of its mission to help Americans drive, ride and walk safely, NHTSA works to educate Americans about how to protect themselves and others on the road through public service campaigns such as Buckle Up America, our Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up to promote tween seat belt use, and Click It or Ticket, which is tied to stepped-up seat belt enforcement periods supported by State and local law enforcement across the country.


Seat Belt Safety - Tweens
Save a life: buckle up

Your seat belt is crucial to surviving a crash. Make it a habit to always buckle up every time.

  • In 2015, nearly half of passenger vehicle occupants who died in crashes were unrestrained.
  • From 2011 to 2015, seat belts saved nearly 64,000 lives – enough to fill a football stadium.



Key Resources

Seat Belt Enforcement

Seat Belt Mobilization Evaluations

Seat Belts and Occupant Protection


All Resources


Law Evaluation

Night vs. Day Seat Belt Use

Children and Pre-Drivers Passenger Safety


Seat Belt Use Rate (by State)

Seat Belt Use (demographic results)

Seat Belt Mobilization Evaluations

Medical Cost Savings in States with Primary Seat Belt Laws


Occupant Safety Survey Reports