- Jennifer Hutchinson
Seat belts are commonplace today. Most of us don’t think twice before buckling up when we get into the car. At least that’s what I have always thought. Looking at the statistics, that’s mostly true. However, millions of people get into their cars each day and don’t even consider wearing their seat belts. They don’t consider that car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for Americans from 1-54 years old. They don’t think that one of the most effective ways to save their life or the life of their passengers is as easy as “Buckling Up.”
Safety belt habits vary wildly between states. Of the three states UBIC currently writes in, Utah had the lowest number of fatalities and a higher than the national average rate of seat belt use. Nevada came in second only having a little over a hundred more fatalities in the same period and an even higher percentage of seat belt use. Missouri came in last and unfortunately had nearly four times as many fatalities. Missouri was higher than the national average in every category.
One of the possible reasons for the disparity is that Utah and Nevada have primary seat belt laws. This means you can be pulled over and ticketed for not wearing a restraint. However, in Missouri, they have secondary seat belt laws. This means you can only be pulled over and ticketed if the officer has another reason, like speeding. Studies have shown that this directly impacts how many people wear their seat belts. States that have stricter laws also have higher rates of use. States along the West coast that have had these laws in places longer have fewer deaths per year and a higher rate of seat belt use.
Another factor in seat belt use rates between states is how much of the state is rural. Rural areas have much lower rates of safety belt usage, regardless of laws. Consistently, year after year, about 10% fewer people in rural areas wear their seat belts. Sadly resulting in many deaths that could have been prevented.
The statistics for the commercial side differ slightly. The national average for commercial vehicle seat belt use sits at about 86% compared to the personal vehicle national average of nearly 90%. Best practices suggest a well-defined seat belt policy for employees or anyone driving for their company can greatly reduce medical care and insurance premium costs.
Using seat belts has saved an estimated 255,000 people from dying in a car accident. Through increased awareness, more lives can be saved. So buckle up and get home safe!