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CDC: National safety belt usage increases to 85 percent

January 10, 2011

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Atlanta – Six out of every 7 drivers on the road wear a safety belt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle, according to survey results (.pdf file) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, self-reported safety belt use in the United States increased to 85 percent in 2008 from 80.5 percent in 2002.

The report indicated primary safety belt laws impact rates of use. States that enforce primary safety belt laws achieved 88 percent safety belt usage, whereas those with secondary laws saw an average of 79 percent.

Primary laws allow law enforcement officers to pull over a vehicle if they observe a driver not wearing a safety belt. Secondary laws allow officers to ticket unbelted drivers only after stopping the motorist for another offense.

Although only one-third of adults live in one of the 19 states that do not have a primary safety belt law, residents of these states account for 49 percent of unbelted drivers on the road.

If states that currently have secondary laws achieved the same level of safety belt usage as primary law states, CDC estimates it would result in an additional 7.3 million drivers buckling up.

"A simple step that most drivers and passengers in the United States already take – buckling their seat belts – cuts in half the chance of being seriously injured or killed in a crash," said Thomas R. Frieden, director of CDC. "Yet, about 1 in 7 adults do not wear a seat belt on every trip. If everyone in the vehicle buckled up every time, we could further reduce one of the leading causes of death."

In spite of the high overall rate of safety belt use, an adult in the United States is treated in an emergency department for injuries related to a vehicle crash every 14 seconds, according to CDC statistics.

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