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Seat Belts: Every Person, Every Seat, Every Trip.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of five and 34. Crashes also cause millions of serious injuries every year. The simple act of buckling up is the best way to save lives and reduce injuries from crashes. A recent CDC report shows the importance of seat belts and what can be done to get every person in every seat buckled up on every trip.

Photo: A woman fastening a seatbelt.The Risk is Real

Motor vehicle crashes are a major public health problem. Consider that:

  • More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.

Crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers cost $70 billion in 2005.

Seat Belts Save Lives

When it comes to protecting drivers and their passengers, seat belts save lives.

Seat belts:

Primary Enforcement Laws Make a Difference

Primary enforcement seat belt laws make a big difference in getting more people to buckle up. A primary enforcement seat belt law means a police officer can pull someone over and issue a ticket to the driver just because someone in the vehicle is not wearing a seat belt. A secondary enforcement law only allows a police officer to issue a ticket for someone not wearing a seat belt if the driver has been pulled over for some other offense. In 2010, 19 states—where one out of four adult Americans live—did not have a primary law.

  • Reduce serious injuries and deaths in crashes by 50%. Air bags provide added protection, but are not a substitute for seat belts in a crash.
  • Are used more in states that have primary enforcement laws (88%) than those states that do not have them (79%).

In 2010, 19 states—where 24% of adult Americans live—did not have a primary seat beat enforcement law. In 2009, about 12,000 more injuries would have been prevented and almost 450 more lives saved if all states had primary enforcement laws.

Steps for Safety

When it comes to increasing seat belt use, individuals, government, and health professionals can help promote safety.

States can:

  • Pass a primary enforcement seat belt law.
  • Make sure that seat belt laws apply to everyone in the car, not just those in the front seat.
  • Ensure that fines for not wearing a seat belt are high enough to be effective.
  • Make sure that police and state troopers enforce all seat belt laws.
  • Support seat belt laws with visible police presence and awareness campaigns for the public.
  • Educate the public to make seat belt use a norm.

Employers can:

  • Post information in break rooms and parking lots that encourages employees to buckle up.
  • Identify the cost of car crashes to their workforce in terms of medical care and lost wages.
  • Require seat belts use in company vehicles at all times, and in personal vehicles while on company business.
  • Develop active enforcement programs for staff about seat belt use when driving company vehicles.

Everyone can:

  • Use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short.
  • Encourage everyone in the car to buckle up, including those in the back seat.

Child Passenger SafetyParents and caregivers can:

  • Use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short. This sets a good example.
  • Make sure children are properly buckled up in a seat belt, booster seat, or car seat, whichever is appropriate. See CDC guidance on child passenger safety.
  • Have all children ages 12 and under sit in the back seat.
  • Never seat a child in front of an air bag.
  • Place children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.

Health professionals can:

  • Encourage patients to make wearing a seat belt a habit.
  • Wear seat belts themselves and encourage other colleagues to do the same.
  • Remind patients about the importance of seat belt use.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: January 4, 2011
  • Page last updated: January 4, 2011
  • Content source: