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The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is renewing their efforts to get drivers and passengers to use their seat belts. In a report issued in 2018, they noted that seat belts save lives and that many of those killed in motor vehicle accidents are not restrained. In 2016 alone, for example, 44 percent of passenger vehicle occupants who were killed in traffic accidents were not using their seat belts at the time of the crashes.

Unrestrained Vehicle Fatalities
Source: Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) 2007–2015 Final File and 2016 Annual Report File (ARF).

The administration teamed up with local law enforcement agencies in their annual Click It or Ticket campaign to encourage people to buckle up. Mandatory seat belt laws are now in effect in 49 states.

NHTSA Reports on Seat Belt Safety

The good news is that seat belt use is increasing. Between 2007 and 2016, use went up from 82.5 percent to 90.1 percent. Still, there are thousands of people killed on roadways because people are not complying with the law.

Even more concerning is the fact that many of these individuals are young people. Of those killed in traffic crashes, 62 percent of unrestrained vehicle occupants were in the 13-to-15 age group—the highest percentage of all age groups in the report. The next highest percentage of unrestrained occupants occurred in the 25-to-34 age group.

It also looks like men are less likely to use seat belts than women. Among male fatalities in 2016, 52 percent were unrestrained. Among female fatalities, 40 percent were unrestrained. Almost twice as many male occupants as female occupants were killed in 2016.

Individuals driving pickups also need to be more careful. Sixty percent of pickup drivers who were killed weren’t wearing seat belts, compared to 53 percent for SUV drivers, 42 percent for passenger car drivers, and 37 percent for van drivers.

On the other side of the spectrum, seat belts were found to have saved the lives of an estimated 14,668 passenger vehicle occupants five and older in 2016, while an estimated 328 children under the age of five were saved by their use of restraints.

Seat Belts Save Lives

The NHTSA seeks to remind drivers and passengers that the seat belt “is the single most effective vehicle safety technology.” They note that not only do seat belts keep occupants inside the vehicles, but they also prevent them from “acting as projectiles inside of the vehicle and hurting others.” They estimate that lap/shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger occupants by 45 percent, while reducing the risk of moderate-to-critical injury to front-seat passengers by 50 percent.

As for younger passengers, the NHTSA states that if all passengers five and older had worn seat belts, 17,124 lives could have been saved in 2016.

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