Seat Belt Safety

Seat Belt Safety

Could It Save Your Life?

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, you’ve probably been guilty of forgetting to buckle your seat belt at one time or another. Maybe you were in a rush to get to work and forgot about it altogether. Or perhaps you were “just driving around the corner” and didn’t think the hassle of
a seat belt was necessary.

Before we progress any further to discuss the ins and outs of seat belt safety, let’s take a moment to talk about the method behind the madness.

Whatever the case may be, no one is perfect when it comes to seat belt safety. But just a momentary lapse in judgment could leave you at risk for a serious or even fatal accident.

What is the purpose of a seat belt?

A seat belt has become a commonplace safety feature in all vehicles. But would it surprise you to know that the modern seat belt
design has only been on the market for roughly 50 years?

Three Point Seat Belt by Nils Ivar Bohlin

nils ivar bohlin photo

Yes, the three-point seat belt harness was introduced in 1959, invented by a Swedish aircraft engineer named Nils Ivar Bohlin. The purpose of the belt was to protect both the body and chest using diagonal and lap harnesses in combination

Is it mandatory to wear a seat belt?

Shouldn’t it be a
personal decision?

Although the safety feature of a seat belt can be
found in every vehicle on the road today, that doesn’t guarantee that all drivers and passengers are wearing them. Most people question the necessity of a seat belt while driving. Is it mandatory to wear a seat belt? Shouldn’t it be a personal decision?

Today, wearing a seat belt is required by law in every state, with the exception of New Hampshire.

While it may seem like a person’s right to decide whether or not to wear a safety harness, 49 state governments disagree. Some state laws mandate seat belt use for front seat passengers only, yet 28 states, as well as DC, require all front and rear vehicle occupants to wear seat belts by law.

In almost every state in the US, you are obligated to
wear a seat belt by law

Must Use!!

If you’re still not convinced about why you should buckle up when you get into a vehicle, here are a few remarkable seat belt facts that may just change your mind:

It takes only two seconds to buckle a seat belt, yet one person in the US dies each hour because they weren’t wearing a seat belt.

Three out of four car accidents occur within 25 miles of home, normally when driving to a routine, daily activity.

An improperly worn seat belt can result in internal injuries in a crash.

Failure to use a seat belt contributes to more crash fatalities than any other traffic safety behavior.

57%of children wear seat belts when parents don’t buckle up.

A seat belt will increase the chance of surviving a car accident by 50%.

To paint a clearer picture, if a car accident were to occur while driving 40 miles an hour, the average 150 pound adult that wasn’t wearing a seat belt would be thrown from the vehicle with 6000 pounds of force. Without the protection of a seat belt in even a minor accident, it would be difficult to walk away from a car crash unscathed.

Still not convinced? Here is a chart depicting traffic fatalities and serious injuries compared to seat belt use in Minnesota from 1986 to 2008. As seat belt use increased up to 87% in 2008, traffic fatalities dropped dramatically by more than half since 1986:

Minnesota Traffic fatalities and serious injuries compared with seat belt use 1986-2008


Fatalities and Serious Injuries Among Motor Vehicle Occupants

Seat Belt Use

Should You Take Seat Belts Seriously?

It’s an inarguable fact that

seat belts save lives.

So just how seriously should you take your commitment to seat belt use? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seat belts saved approximately 13,250 lives in 2008 alone. In the five-year span from 2004 to 2008, seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives.

Even in light of these eye-opening statistics, a large percentage of people still refuse, or forget, to wear seat belts.

The CDC tells us that adults who are least likely to wear a seat belt fit within these categories:

Adults ages 18-34 are less likely to buckle up than adults 35 and older.

87% of adults in urban and suburban areas buckle up compared to 78% of adults in rural areas.

Seat belt use is lower in states with secondary seat belt laws at 79% compared to states with primary seat belt laws at 88%.

Men may be 10% less likely to wear seat belts compared to women.

in nut shell

If you are a man from ages 18 to 34 living in a rural area and/or in a state with secondary seat belt
laws, you may be in the highest risk category of all.


That is not to say that non-seat belt wearers can’t fall outside of these categories. However, it is important to be aware of specific risk factors that may make you less likely to buckle up the next time you take a spin around the block. In addition, if any of your loved ones fit these criteria, you can do your part by reminding them to wear a seat belt any time they are in a motor vehicle – even when driving a short distance. Be smart, this will also help you get safe driver discounts

One overlooked category of non-seat belt wearers is none other than Teenagers
According to the chart above, 58% of teen drivers killed in car accidents weren’t wearing a seat belt compared to 50% of teen passengers

Seat Belt use by teen driver and their teen passengers

Killed in crashes
General public

The main reason that many people are so resistant to wearing a seat belt as a driver or
passenger is because of common seat belt myths that have circulated over the years, like:


Wearing a seat belt is inconvenient and uncomfortable

If you find yourself giving this all-too-common excuse as a reason for not buckling up, think again. Once wearing a seat belt becomes a habit, the odds are that you will no longer feel discomfort when riding in a car. Inconvenience is a moot point since it takes just a few seconds to buckle up before driving.


Seat belts aren’t necessary when you have airbags

Once again, a seat belt is a safety feature that shouldn’t be overlooked under any circumstance. A lap and shoulder combination seat belt should be used at all times for added protection, even in a vehicle with airbags.



Seat belts can cause injury in a car crash

Quite the opposite is true! The National Safety Council confirms that seat belts
can reduce the risk of collision fatalities for front seat passengers by up to 45%
and subsequent injuries by 50%.



Seat belts will cause you to get trapped in your vehicle underwater or in a fire

Car crashes that result in submersion in water or fire make up 0.5-1% of all
collisions on the road. With those odds, it’s much more dangerous to drive
without a seat belt incase of an accident. Even if your car is submerged
in a crash, not using a seat beltcould render you unconscious or injured,
making it even more difficult to escape.


Seat belts aren’t necessary when driving a short distance

False! Car crashes are the number one cause of preventable death and injury
in the nation and can occur any time you are on the road. As stated above,
75% of accidentshappen within 25 miles of home, making it all the more
important to buckle up when driving to the corner store.

If you’ve made these excuses or believed these myths in the past, it’s never too late to turn a new leaf. Buckling up the next time you turn the key in the ignition could save your life in a minor to major accident, whether you’re on a road trip or driving down your own street.

seat belt legislation click it or ticket

It’s one thing to commit to wearing a seat belt to save your life. But in many states, failure to use a seat belt could mean a legal infraction, resulting in a fine or points on your license.

In the US, seat belt legislation is governed by state.

Your parents may reminisce about the good old days when seat belts weren’t required and didn’t even come in many vehicles. That’s because the first federal seat belt law wasn’t introduced until 1968, requiring all vehicles to include seat belts in all designated seats. Today, the law has been since updated to require three-point seat belts in all designated vehicle seats.


Nationwide, states began to make their own individual seat belt laws to tighten restrictions, starting with New York in 1984. New York was the first state to enact legislation requiring all drivers and passengers to use seat belts when a vehicle was in motion.

Nonetheless, seat belt laws by state will vary significantly, depending on the seat position in a vehicle and even the age of a passenger.
A complete list of seat belt laws by state can be found at the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Below, you will find a sampling of some of the most common state-specific primary seat belt
laws throughout the nation:

More Than
Less Than


Front seat belts for:

>15 y.o

Fine for first offense:



Seat belts for:

>16 y.o

Fine for first offense:



Seat belts for:

>16 y.o

Fine for first offense:



Front seat belts for:

>6 y.o

Seat belts for:

6-17 y.o

Fine for first offense:



Front seat belts for:


Fine for first offense:


New mexico

Seat belts for:

>18 y.o

Fine for first offense:


new york

Rear belts for:

<16 y.o

Front seat belts for:


Fine for first offense:



Front seat belts for:

>13 y.o

Fine for first offense:



Seat belts for:

>8 y.o

Seat belts for:


Fine for first offense:



Seat belts for:

>8 y.o

Fine for first offense:


No matter where you live, you’re probably familiar with the nationwide Click It or Ticket seat belt campaign. Sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the campaign is designed to separate fact from fiction when it comes to seat belt safety.

The Click It or Ticket campaign targets high-risk drivers and passengers that may be less likely to wear seat belts, such as teenagers and young adult drivers in the US. Click It or Ticket was first introduced in North Carolina in 1993 and has since spread to a number of other states that enforce primary seat belt laws.

Depending on the state and type of violation, the simple act of neglecting or forgetting to
wear a seat belt could land you with a substantial fine.

Seat belt by type of law, US, 2008

In 2008, primary seat belt laws existed in 26 states, 3 territories, and the District of Colombia.
These laws covered about 65% of the US adult population.

90% or greater
69% or less
State has
primary law

Source: CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, US, 2002 and 2008

Several first-offense primary seat belt violation fines were outlined above by state. In some states, like California, you can rack up an even heftier penalty for not properly restraining a child under the age of 16, with a minimum ticket starting at $445. Even if the parent of the child is not in the car to supervise, the driver will still be given a ticket.

While it’s never fun to pay hundreds of dollars for simply forgetting to wear a seat belt, Click It or Ticket is successful for a reason. BusinessWeek confirms that police in each state jumpstart the campaign around high-traffic holidays, like Memorial Day, to crack down on lapses in seat belt use

Since most drivers and passengers are afraid of getting a ticket, they simply buckle up instead. Many lawmakers also rely on Click It or Ticket to raise money for state government. In Nebraska, for example, the Highway Safety Administration anticipated that the number of traffic citations within the two-week campaign would double from 12,000 to 24,000. This would result in roughly $350,000 more revenue for the state.

Seat belt safety awareness offers a twofold approach to benefit both state governments and driver safety. If you want to avoid paying out the nose for a small mistake, there’s one simple solution: Click it as soon as you get in a vehicle.

According to the NHTSA, the Click It or Ticket campaign has encouraged increased seat belt use in 43 out of 50 states since 2003.

according to the nhtsa icon

forward facing car seat

rear facing car seat

Child Seat Belt Safety A Matter of Life and Death

According to the Nevada DMV:

7 out of 10 child safety seats are installed incorrectly.

One critical topic that can’t be overlooked is that of child seat belt
safety. There are strict child restraint laws in all 50 states and the
District of Columbia. Infants and children riding in a vehicle must
travel in approved child restraint devices, such as car seats or booster seats.

Infant and child car seat and seat belt guidelines are as follows:

Rear-facing car seat0-12 months

Rear-facing car seat
up to height or
weight limits
1-3 years, transition to forward-facing car seat with harness.

Foward-facing car seat with harness up to
height or weight limits
4-7 years, transition to booster seat in back
seat only.

Booster seat8-12 years, Booster seat until child is big enough to use a seat belt with the proper shoulder and lap fit; back seat riding is recommended.

While many child seat belt guidelines can be considered common sense, they’re worth mentioning. Children should never be boosted in a car seat with towels, books, or pillows for a better seat belt fit. It’s also important that kids stay seated in a car seat, booster seat, or adult seat belt; a shoulder seat belt should be worn across the chest, not behind the back or under the arm.

Even researchers are getting on board to do their part to improve child seat belt safety. Kansas State University civil engineers have concluded based on extensive research that the most effective car safety strategy is also the simplest: buckle up!

This may be a no-brainer but increasing seat belt use among children can prevent kids from becoming innocent victims of car crashes.



While almost 97% of children under age 4 use car safety restraints, the number drops to 76% among kids ages 4 to 13 years old.

To prevent children from becoming seriously injured or killed in an accident, these statistics are simply unacceptable. According to KSU researchers, adults are responsible: “Children will not be on their own in a car. They will always be with an adult, and that adult can ask the child to buckle up.”

Adults can also reduce the risk of child fatalities in car accidents by cutting down on high-risk driving behaviors, like failure to yield, speeding, inattentive driving, and driving in unsafe conditions. But one fact remains the same: Seat belt usage can be a matter of life and death for young children riding in a car.

Conclusion: Seat BeltsDon’t Leave Home Without One!

If you weren’t convinced of the many benefits of wearing a seat belt before, you should be by now. Buckling a seat belt is a simple act that could literally save your life. Encouraging everyone in your car to buckle up before driving could prevent serious injury or even death in the unfortunate event of an accident.

Buckling up could help you beat the odds. Wearing a seat belt on every car trip
is one guaranteed way to reduce the risk of injury and death in a crash.

seat belt non-use patterns

  • Today


  • Within the past week


  • Within the past month


  • Within the past 12 month


  • 1 year ago/always wear it


In the Rhode Island survey, 83% of high school students reported wearing seatbelts. When asked about the last time they had not worn a seatbelt, the largest percentage of students (37.9%) reported that it was a year or more ago or that they always wear it. Non-use on the day of the survey was 13.9%. Source: URITC

Seat belt reform starts with you and your family as you change old habits and start to buckle up every time you get in the car. To see the greatest success in a solid commitment to seat belt use, it’s important to get everyone involved, from passengers to drivers to employers to legislators, by:

  • 1

    Committing to wear a seat belt in every car trip, no matter
    the distance.

  • 2

    Requiring that all passengers in the car buckle up in each trip,
    no matter the distance and even in the backseat.

  • 3

    Parents setting a good example for children by using a seat belt
    in every car trip.

  • 4

    Parents checking that children of all ages are buckled properly in a car seat, booster, or regular seat belt.

  • 5

    Parents requiring kids under 12 to sit in the backseat with a seat belt.

  • 6

    Employers posting seat belt safety information throughout
    the workplace.

  • 7

    Employers requiring workers to wear seat belts at all times in company vehicles.

  • 8

    Legislators passing primary seat belt enforcement laws in all states.

  • 9

    Legislators expanding seat belt laws to cover all passengers,
    not just front seat occupants.

  • 10

    Legislators increasing fines for not wearing a seat belt.

  • 11

    Legislators encouraging public seat belt safety education
    as a basic standard.

If you’re looking for one more reason to buckle up, how about the almighty dollar?

A recent federal study assessed the cost of car accidents, estimated at a whopping $230 billion a year. This equals out to $820 for every adult and child in the US.

The financial burden of car accidents is far reaching, resulting in billions of dollars in lost productivity, property damage, medical expenses, and travel delays.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to get your attention.

The NHTSA hopes that every adult in the US will understand that car accidents and related casualties can be prevented to dramatically cut down on both tragic accidents and accompanying expenses.

Even if you haven’t been in an accident at all or in recent years, you’re still going to pay for those who don’t wear seat belts. The same NHTSA study estimated that 75% of these expenses are paid for by average drivers and passengers in travel delays, taxes, and steep insurance premiums.

That got your attention, didn’t it?

One way to make a difference and ease this billion-dollar load is to buckle up every time you get in a vehicle. Failure to wear seat belts
is estimated to cost the nation $26 billion.

By making a simple change in your driving and riding habits, you can save our country billions
of dollars. Better yet, you can save your own life and the lives of those you love.

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