Seat Belt Safety Facts, Statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a seat belt safety ad focused on how wearing a seat belt in the United States is required:  “Click It or Ticket“. The message is clear: Even if you’re just dashing down the street on a short trip, your seat belt can save your life, and not wearing a seat belt is against the law.

Child Safety Seat. Seat belt Safety: Facts and Statistics

These days, most people know seat belts protect us as we drive and ride. But just how effective are they? First, let’s look at some Texas crash statistics. Motor vehicle crash statistics in Texas in 2022 show:

  • One person was killed every 1 hour 57 minutes
  • One person was injured every 2 minutes and 9 seconds
  • One reportable crash occurred every 57 seconds
  • There were no deathless days on Texas roadways

Every time Texans venture out on the road, they take a calculated risk. It’s an unavoidable risk for most, but the consistent use of a seat belt can lessen it.

Seat Belt Safety Statistics

The national use rate of seat belts is around 92%. While awareness is high, we can always do better. Friends and family who are averse to wearing seat belts might be interested in the following seat belt safety statistics.

According to the United States Department of Transportation:

  • 51% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020 were unrestrained
  • In 2017 alone, seat belts saved approximately 14,955 lives and could have saved an additional 2,549 had they been wearing their seat belts
  • Buckling up in the front seat helps reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%
  • Buckling up in a light truck can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 60% and moderate to critical injury by 65%
  • More than 75% of people who are ejected during a fatal crash die from their injuries
  • Only 1% of people ejected during a collision were wearing a seat belt
  • Nationwide, seat belt use in 2021 reached 91% for drivers, 89% for front seat passengers, and 78% for back seat occupants (National Center for Statistics and Analysis).
  • The observed belt use rate in 2021 was about six times the rate observed in 1983.

Seat Belt Safety Facts

It’s easy to assume we know everything about seat belts. After all, most of us have been using them our entire lives! But even something as commonplace as a seat belt can have some surprising facts up its sleeve.

  • The force of an airbag can seriously injure or kill you if you aren’t buckled up
  • Putting your seat belt strap beneath your arm puts you at risk in a collision
  • The lap belt should rests across your hips, not your stomach
  • 49 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia have a seat belt law; only New Hampshire does not
  • 10,893 unbuckled passengers died in 2020
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among Americans aged 1-54
seatbelts. Seat Belt Safety

Seat Belt Laws in the United States

In the United States, seat belt laws vary by state, but they generally fall into two categories: primary and secondary enforcement laws. Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to ticket motorists for not wearing a seat belt, without any other traffic offense taking place. Currently, 34 states, including the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, have primary seat belt safety laws.

Secondary seat belt laws, in contrast, stipulate that law enforcement officers can issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only when there is another citable traffic infraction. There are 15 states with secondary laws. Secondary enforcement laws emerged as a compromise between safety advocates who sought to enforce seat belt use and those who viewed stringent enforcement as an infringement on personal freedom. However, studies have shown that states with primary enforcement laws have higher rates of seat belt use, indicating that the secondary enforcement model may not be as effective in promoting widespread seat belt safety compliance.

New Hampshire is the only state that has no mandatory seat belt law for adults in the front seat, although it does require seat belts for drivers and passengers under 18. However, while the law may not mandate seat belt use in some states, the evidence is clear that wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest and most effective ways to protect yourself on the road.

Despite the pervasive implementation of seat belt safety laws across the United States, there are still 10 states that do not enforce the use of rear seat belts. These states are: Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

List of States With Primary Seat Belt Laws

The states with primary seat belt laws include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

List of States With Secondary Seat Belt Laws

The states with secondary seat belt laws include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming. It’s important to remember in these states, tickets can only be issued for not wearing a seat belt if an additional traffic violation is committed.

Seat Belt Safety Truth or Fiction

Seat belts are something we take for granted and often overlook. As such, it’s easy to accept some common myths and misconceptions.

  • Myth: I don’t need to wear my seat belt if I have an airbag.
    • Truth: Airbags are meant to work alongside your seat belt, not replace it. Crashes without seat belts often lead to serious injuries or ejection from the vehicle. Without a seat belt, you could crash into the vehicle interior, other passengers, or even be ejected from the vehicle.
  • Myth: My seat belt will trap me if I end up submerged in water.
    • Truth: Being submerged underwater is extremely unlikely. But you can’t escape anything if you’re unconscious. Your seat belt is your best bet for remaining conscious in any circumstance.
  • Myth: I don’t need my seat belt if I’m going a short distance or traveling at a low speed.
    • Truth: Most fatal crashes happen within 25 miles of home and involve speeds of less than 40 miles per hour.
  • Myth: Putting a seat belt on your dog is only good for their safety, not mine.
    • Truth: Using a pet-specific safety restraint on your dog protects not only your dog, but also the driver from distracted driving.
  • Myth: Pregnant women should not wear seat belts, as it might harm your unborn child.
    •  Truth: Properly worn seat belts can protect both the mother and the unborn child in the event of a crash. Doctors who treat car accident victims recommend that seat belt should be worn low and snug on the hip bones, below the belly, and the shoulder belt should go between the breasts and off to the side of the belly.
  • Myth: Children can ride in the front seat safely once they are out of a car seat.

Seat Belt Reminders and Interlocks:  Laws and Federal Safety Standards

Seat belt reminders and interlocks are technological tools that aim to further enhance seat belt safety and adherence to laws. A seat belt reminder, as the name implies, is a device installed in vehicles that produces an auditory or visual signal reminding occupants to buckle up if they haven’t done so. It serves to increase the rate of seat belt usage, particularly in situations where occupants may forget or neglect to wear them.

On the other hand, seat belt interlocks are systems that prevent the vehicle from being operated unless the seat belt is fastened. The interlock system was introduced in the early 1970s in the United States under federal mandate. However, due to public backlash, the legislation was repealed, and the use of interlocks became voluntary under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 208.

While not mandatory, some modern vehicles have reintroduced the seat belt interlock system to ensure the highest level of safety. This technological advancement is viewed as a potential life-saver, considering that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017 alone, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives of passenger vehicle occupants aged 5 and older.

In summary, the laws and federal safety standards concerning seat belt reminders and interlocks serve as an integral part of the collective effort to reduce vehicle-related injuries and fatalities. They underscore the paramount importance of always wearing a seat belt, further reinforcing the principle that seat belt safety is not a choice, but a necessity.

The Evolution of Seat Belt Technology

Seat belt technology has undergone several evolutionary transformations since its inception.

  • Two-Point Waist Restraints: The earliest version of the seat belt, known as the two-point waist restraint, was introduced in the early 1900s. However, it offered limited protection and was not widely adopted.
  • Three-Point Belt System: In the 1950s, Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin developed the three-point belt, which is used in most vehicles today. This innovation represented a significant leap in seat belt safety, providing restraint across both the lap and shoulder, thereby reducing the risk of injury during a collision.
  • Seat Belt Retractors: In the subsequent decades, seat belt technology saw further advancements, including the introduction of seat belt retractors, which helped to ensure the belt remained taut and in the correct position.
  • Seat Belt Pretensioners: Seat belt pretensioners were another major development. They work by rapidly retracting the seat belt in the event of a severe impact, keeping the occupant firmly in their seat and better distributing the force of the collision.
  • Smart Seat Belts: The advent of smart seat belts marked another significant milestone. These belts are equipped with sensors that can detect if a belt is buckled, and in some cases, even the weight of the occupant. Some smart seat belts can also adjust automatically to provide the best fit for the wearer.

Despite these substantial advancements, seat belt technology continues to evolve, with ongoing research and development focused on further enhancing driver and passenger safety. This relentless pursuit of safety improvement underscores the critical role seat belts play in reducing vehicular injuries and fatalities.

A Texas Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

Being prepared is good, but not all car accidents can be avoided. If you or a loved one were injured in an auto accident, a Texas personal injury attorney can help. Give Thompson Law a call today to discuss your case at no cost.

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