The Lives Seat Belts Might Have Saved

By Stephanie Shaw

Seat belt posterAccording to research, nationwide, about 86 percent of us use our seat belts. A use rate that hasn’t really changed much over the last decade. And to most, that probably seems pretty good . . . until you realize that it means 14 percent still choose not to buckle up!

Let’s look at this a little closer.

The national belt use rate only reflects those people sitting in the front seat observed using a belt between 7am and 6pm. And it doesn’t show how the use rate differs from state to state. In states with a primary seat belt law, average belt use for front seat occupants is 90 percent; in states with a secondary law, it’s only 78 percent. It also doesn’t reflect the fact that seat belt use by back seat passengers is startlingly low.

In 2012, nearly 21,667 people died in motor vehicle crashes; more than 50 percent of them were not buckled up—lives the seat belt might have saved!

When used, lap/shoulder seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. It’s estimated that seat belts saved an estimated 12,174 lives in 2012.

Another startling fact not reflected in that 86 percent, the number of children not buckled up. Car crashes are a leading cause of death to children in the U.S. Every day, an average of 3 children age 14 and younger are killed and nearly 500 more are injured in motor vehicle crashes.

In 2012, there were 4,888 passenger vehicle occupants 14 and younger involved in fatal crashes. Among the children killed in those crashes, 40 percent were unrestrained.

When used, research shows that child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants (younger than 1 year old) and by 54 percent for toddlers (1 to 4 years old) in passenger cars. Among children under age 5, an estimated 284 lives were saved in 2012 by the use of child safety seats and seat belts; 265 as a result of the use of child safety seats and 18 with the use of adult seat belts.

Occupant restraints such as child safety seats and seat belts save lives! If all passenger vehicle occupants age 5 and older had worn seat belts in 2012, more than 3,000 additional lives could have been saved. And, if all children under age 5 had used a child safety seat, an additional 59 lives could have been saved!

So, on every trip, make sure you and everyone in your car buckle up every time. Don’t let your life or the life of someone you love be the one the seat belt might have saved!

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