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SafetyAlerts
September 17,  2002

Seat Belt Use by Drivers, Passengers Reaches 75 percent, NHTSA Reports

(SafetyAlerts) - 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 the increase.

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 campaign.

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 - 79 percent.

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 .

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Source: NHTSA

 
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