Good News: Seatbelt Use Reaches 87 Percent
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that seatbelt use inched up to 87 percent in 2013, the most recent year for which complete data is available. This figure is up from 86 percent in 2012, but represents a significant increase from previous decades. The data was gathered from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, which is conducted on an annual basis.
Seatbelt use has been improving since 1995, and it is accompanied by a steady decline in the rate of unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant fatalities. The 2013 survey further found that seatbelt use in heavy traffic rose to 90 percent. For those in the Northeast, seatbelt use rose to 84 percent, up from 80 percent the prior year. Seatbelt use is higher in those states in which drivers and passengers can be pulled over for solely not wearing their seatbelts, known as "primary law" states. These states differ from "secondary law" states in which occupants can only be cited for not wearing a seatbelt if pulled over for another offense. Georgia is a primary enforcement state and drivers have responded to these strong seatbelt laws.
The Importance of Seat belts
Seat belts undeniably save lives. The Center For Disease Control states that seat belts are the most effective way to save the lives of adults and reduce crash injuries. Seat belts reduce the risk of death or serious injuries by about half. Airbags do not offer a substitute to seatbelt use as they do not adequately restrain drivers and passengers in their seats.
Teens are the least likely to wear seatbelts while driving or traveling in a motor vehicle, and their high fatality rates are linked to this lack of seatbelt usage. According to the CDC, teens that died in crashes were not wearing seatbelts in about 55 percent of the fatal accidents.
Georgia has already taken the first step in ensuring seatbelt usage by passing primary enforcement laws that allow police officers to pull drivers over for not wearing a seatbelt. Primary enforcement laws are naturally more effective than secondary enforcement laws that require an additional traffic violation.
Parents can help to ensure their children and growing teens practice safe seatbelt usage by making sure children use their seatbelts every single time they get in the car, no matter how short the distance traveled. Make sure young children are buckled in appropriate car or booster safety seats and all children under the age of twelve ride in the backseat. Properly buckle children in the middle seat whenever possible, as it is the safest place in a vehicle.
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