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Seat Belts
Seat belts save lives. While seat belt use has been increasing and averages 88 percent nationally, there are still groups less likely to wear seat belts:  teens, commercial drivers, males in rural areas, pick-up truck drivers, people driving at night, and people who have been drinking. Resources here include data, effective prevention, and links to national and state organizations working on this issue.

Seat Belts: Your Single Most Effective Safety Step

Seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent. They save lives:

The good news is, in 2009, seat belt use averaged 88 percent nationally, compared with 69 percent in 1998. NHTSA attributes this increase to the "Click It or Ticket" campaign, originally created by the National Safety Council as part of its Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign.

Nationwide, seat belt use is higher than ever. Yet seat belt use remains lowest among young drivers. NHTSA also reports that, in 2007:

  • Seat belt use was lower among blacks than any other race.
  • Seat belt use was higher among females than males.
  • Seat belt use was lower among drivers who drove alone than drivers with passengers.
State Seat Belt Laws

Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have mandatory seat belt laws (the exception is New Hampshire). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a state-by-state map of seat belt laws.

Primary and Secondary Enforcement

Seat belt use is 13 percent higher in states with primary enforcement (88 percent) than in states with secondary enforcement (75 percent).

  • 31 states plus the District of Columbia have primary enforcement of seat belt laws, meaning police can stop vehicles and write citations for failure to buckle up.
  • 18 states have secondary enforcement, meaning police can issue a seat belt citation only after a vehicle is stopped for another reason.
Injury Facts latest edition

NSC Research & Statistical Services -- Injury Facts® is a complete reference source for safety statistics. Includes seat belt data. 


NHTSA Seat Belt Use in 2009 Seat belt use rates in the states and territories.

NHTSA Fatal Analysis Reporting System National database providing annual data on motor vehicle crash fatal injuries.

NHTSA Traffic Safety Fact Sheets Reports include annual results of seat belt use from the National Occupant Protection Use Surveys (NOPUS).

CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Statistics Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), death and injury charts, and more.



Countermeasures That Work is a reference guide published by GHSA to share effective, science-based countermeasures for major highway safety problem areas. See the Seat Belt Use and Child Restraints section.

The Community Guide is compiled by the CDC to share effectiveness ratings for common prevention strategies. Discover what works and what doesn't. Visit the Use of Safety Belts section.

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