NHTSA releases reports on safety belt use

Passenger vehicle occupants who do not use a safety belt are 17.7 times more likely to be ejected from their vehicles when involved in a crash than occupants who use safety belts, according to a new study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

A report (.pdf file) released in late December shows that in 2007, an estimated 15,147 lives were saved by safety belts. Statistics show 35.3 percent of unrestrained vehicle occupants were ejected, compared with only 2.0 percent of restrained occupants who were ejected. Researchers analyzed Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from 2003 to 2007.

Overall, the percentage of occupants ejected from vehicles has dropped significantly among newer model year vehicles -- the steepest decline was for sport utility vehicles. Researchers concluded if safety belt use had increased to 100 percent, then an additional 5,024 lives would have been saved.

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