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Safety Belts

Buckling up is crucial to improve the chances of surviving in a crash— over half of drivers and passengers killed on the highway were not wearing a safety belt.  More than 7,000 persons are killed, and over 100,000 injured, every year while not wearing a safety belt.  

Safety belts can effectively prevent a person’s death in an otherwise-fatal crash approximately 50 percent of the time.  With national belt use at 79 percent, seat belts saved about 14,000 lives in 2002 alone, according to government estimates.  However, many more lives could be saved if more aggressive belt use campaigns combining strong primary enforcement and highly visible education efforts were pursued in all states. 

Driver education campaigns are largely ineffective unless accompanied by aggressive legal penalties and highly visible enforcement of these penalties.  Education efforts should amplify the impact of the deterrent effect of penalties, rather than generally raising awareness about safety hazards.  In Canada and in states like California, Hawaii and Washington, where the failure to wear a seat belt is a primary enforcement law with heavy penalties, belt use rates have risen to 90 percent and above. 

Increasing belt use is an essential element in preventing highway deaths and injuries — but it is only one piece of the puzzle.  The auto industry invariable blames vehicle deaths on driver behavior, and in particular, on the lack of belt use.  However, many other occupant protection factors, including roof strength, door and door lock integrity, and the presence of side air bags, can greatly influence survival in a crash even if occupants are buckled up.  Moreover, a growing body of evidence seems to indicate the prevalence of belt failure in some crashes, particularly rollovers.

    » autosafety | driver behav | belts

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