America recently achieved an important milestone for road safety: an all-time record seat belt use rate of 90 percent. That’s great news. As recently as 2004, seat belt usage was roughtly 10 percent lower. But it still means than more than 27 million Americans aren’t taking the simple, lifesaving step of buckling up.
NHTSA won’t rest until seat belt use reaches 100 percent. So we’re again reminding Americans that preventing needless deaths on our roadways truly depends on individual action. Put yourself and your family’s safety first – by always buckling up.
Lives Saved and, Sadly, Lost
In the instant you buckle up when driving or riding in the front seat of a car or truck, you cut your risk of a fatal injury in a crash nearly in half. That’s a massive return on the investment of the brief moment it takes to put on a seat belt. In 2016, seat belts saved nearly 15,000 lives. But nearly 2,500 more lives would have been saved if everyone had buckled up.
Clearly, the odds of surviving a crash shift massively in your favor if you first buckle up before taking to the road. Additionally, your vehicle’s other safety features—particularly air bags—won’t work as effectively if you’re not buckled up. In fact, the force of an air bag can seriously injure or even kill you if you’re not wearing a seat belt when it deploys in a crash. Belts and bags work together for your safety.
The Challenge of Tweens and Belts
NHTSA data show that as children get older they are less likely to want to buckle up. In 2016, 262 children 8 to 12 years old were killed in crashes. Nearly half of those who died were not wearing seat belts. But wearing selts belts greatly increases the chance of surviving a crash, much as it does for adults.
Tweens test limits. It’s how they learn and grow. That’s why it’s critical that they absorb the message now that the car doesn’t move until everyone in the vehicle is buckled up. After a while, it won’t be a fight; it will be second nature. It’s a lifesaving lesson that they’ll carry with them always. Different approaches are more effective for younger and older tweens, so check out our tips for talking to your tween about buckling up. And don’t give up until they buckle up.
It’s the Law
Our data shows clearly that States with tough primary seat belt laws see far higher rates of seat belt use. Primary laws, which allow drivers to be pulled over just for failing to buckle up, have achieved seat belt use rates above 92 percent. States without primary laws, where drivers must first commit a separate violation before they can be pulled over and ticketed for failing to wear a seat belt, achieved rates of only 83 percent.
Seat Belts Are Essential
Seat belts are the single most effective safety technology in the history of the automobile. A NHTSA study of lives saved by vehicle technologies found that, between 1960 and 2012, seat belts saved more lives—329,715, to be exact—than all other vehicle technologies combined, including air bags, energy-absorbing steering assemblies, and electronic stability control. Of course, seat belts have been available much longer than many of the other safety features the study reviewed. But they remain essential for safe driving.
We have made enormous progress in increasing seat belt use, but far too many people are still dying because they are not buckled up during crashes. Before you even start your car or truck, you and everyone in your vehicle should be buckled up—every trip, every time.