September 17, 2002
Seat Belt Use by Drivers, Passengers
Reaches 75 percent, NHTSA Reports
- Seat belt use is continuing an upward trend in 2002, reaching 75 percent,
its highest level since national surveys began in 1994, according to an
announcement today by Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., Administrator of the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
States with primary seat belt laws hit another milestone - 80 percent belt
use - while states with secondary laws averaged 69 percent.In states with a
primary seat belt law, motor vehicle occupants can be stopped and cited by
law enforcement officials for failing to wear belts whether or not another
violation has occurred. In states with secondary enforcement, the vehicle
must be stopped for another offense before the occupant can be cited for
failing to wear a belt.
"Though we can't rest until seat belt use is 100 percent in this country, I
am nevertheless pleased that we've reached another milestone," said Dr.
Runge. "More and more, people are realizing that seat belts are absolutely
the most effective safety device in a car. The Bush Administration is
committed to a seat belt use goal of 78 percent by 2003."
The new data - drawn from a large-scale observational study conducted by
NHTSA in June 2002 - show a 2 percentage-point increase in seat belt use to
75 percent since 2001. The study, known as the National Occupant Protection
Use Survey (NOPUS), is conducted periodically by the agency to obtain
nationwide estimates of shoulder belt use and motorcycle helmet use to
support the agency's occupant protection programs. The last such survey was
conducted in June 2001.
A 2-percentage point increase in belt use translates into an additional 6
million users. An estimated 500 lives per year will be saved as a result of
Some of the strongest gains in seat belt use were in the states
participating in the nationwide "Click It or Ticket" enforcement campaign
around the Memorial Day holiday. A total of 30 states participated in the
The Northeast - historically the lowest region for seat belt use - showed
the largest gain, up 8 percentage points between 2001 and 2002. But drivers
and passengers in the West still buckle up at the highest rate nationwide -
Though more pickup truck occupants are buckling up - a 3-percentage-point
increase - they still have the lowest percentage of all vehicles - 65
percent. Belt use among sport utility vehicle (SUV) and van occupants rose
from 75 percent in 2001 to 79 percent in 2002.
Besides indicating a 2-percentage-point increase in overall seat belt use,
the latest national seat belt use survey shows that:
Seat belt use rates in the South (76 percent), West (79 percent) and Midwest
(74 percent) are statistically similar, while the Northeast continues to lag
behind (69 percent).
Helmet use among motorcycle riders nationwide dropped sharply from 71
percent to 58 percent. The last helmet survey was done in the fall of 2000.
The latest NOPUS estimates were derived from a survey conducted during a
three-week period in June 2002. A total of 150,000 vehicles and 900
motorcycles were observed for seat belt and helmet use at 2,000 roadway and
intersection sites throughout the country. The margin of error for NOPUS is
2.4 percentage points.
Dr. Runge announced the latest statistics on seat belt use today in St.
Louis at a meeting of the Governors Highway Safety Association.
The newly released NHTSA statistics are in a research note on the agency's
Website at: www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/NCSA .