How big is the problem of crash-related injuries and deaths to drivers and passengers?
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among those aged 1-54 in the U.S. Most crash-related deaths in the United States occur to passenger vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers).
For adults and older children (who are big enough for seat belts to fit properly), seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes. Yet millions do not buckle up on every trip.
- A total of 22,441 passenger vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015.
- More than half (range: 52%-59%) of teens (13-19 years) and adults aged 20-44 years who died in crashes in 2015 were unrestrained at the time of the crash.
- More than 2.5 million drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015.
- Young adult drivers and passengers (18-24) have the highest crash-related non-fatal injury rates of all adults.
Who is least likely to wear a seat belt?
- Young adults (age 18-24) are less likely to wear seat belts than those in older age groups.
- Men are less likely to wear seat belts than women.
- Adults who live in non-metropolitan areas are less likely to wear seat belts than adults who live in metropolitan areas.
- Seat belt use is lower in states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws or no seat belt laws (83% in 2016) compared to states with primary enforcement laws (92% in 2016).
Seating Position in Vehicle
- Rear-seat motor vehicle passengers are less likely than front-seat passengers to wear a seat belt,10 making them more likely to injure themselves and drivers or other passengers in a crash.
What is the impact of seat belt use?
- Seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half.
- Seat belts saved almost 14,000 lives in 2015.
- Air bags provide added protection but are not a substitute for seat belts. Air bags plus seat belts provide the greatest protection for adults.
Primary enforcement laws make a difference
Research shows, primary enforcement seat belt laws make a big difference in getting more people to buckle up. A primary enforcement seat belt law means a police officer can pull a vehicle over and issue a ticket just because a driver or passenger covered by the law is not wearing a seat belt. A secondary enforcement law only allows a police officer to issue a ticket for someone not wearing a seat belt if the driver has been pulled over for some other offense. As of May 2017, 32 states did not have a primary enforcement law covering all seating positions.
Observed seat belt use in 2016 was 92% in states with primary enforcement laws but only 83% in states with secondary enforcement laws or no seat belt laws.
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