TUESDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Up to 85 percent of American
adults now wear seat belts, an increase that translates into many
fewer injuries and deaths on the road, federal health officials
When the first state law requiring seat belts was passed in
1982, only 11 percent of Americans bothered to wear them. But now,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), nearly six out of seven drivers buckle up.
"What we have here is good news," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said during a noon press conference Tuesday.
"Wearing a seat belt on every trip has become the norm in America, and that is associated with a steady fall in injuries and deaths from motor vehicle crashes," he said.
Health officials noted that the country still has a ways to go
in promoting seat belt use, however. One in seven drivers still
don't buckle up, and among children and young people aged five to
34 in the United States, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading
cause of death.
More than 2 million adults are treated each year for injuries by
motor vehicles in emergency departments, and nearly 34,000 people
of all ages died from these injuries last year, Frieden noted.
Wearing a seat belt is the best way of preventing such deaths
and injuries in crashes, Frieden said. In fact, wearing a seat belt
reduces the risk of being killed or seriously injured in a crash by
about 50 percent, the CDC reports.
The report appears in the Jan. 4 edition of the CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Other findings from the report:
- Seat belt use varies state-to-state, from a high of 94 percent
who buckle up in Oregon to a low of 59 percent in North
- Seat belt use is highest (88 percent) in states where the
police can pull drivers over for not wearing a seat belt. Seat belt
use drops to 79 percent in states where a ticket can only be given
if the driver was pulled over for another traffic violation.
- If all states allowed drivers to be pulled over for seat belt
violations alone, researchers estimate that another 7.3 million
Americans would have buckled up in 2008.
- The 19 states without laws allowing people to be pulled over
for seat belt violations accounted for nearly half of the drivers
and passengers who don't wear seat belts.
- Seven states report that 90 percent of their citizens wear seat
belts, including Oregon, California, Washington, Hawaii, New Jersey
and Texas. New Hampshire is the only state that has no seat belt
To increase seat belt use and to reduce injuries the CDC
- Seat belt laws that cover all drivers and passengers in the
front and back seats.
- Wearing seat belts on every trip.
- Requiring everyone in the car to buckle up.
- Making sure children use seat belts, booster seats, or car
seats, whichever is appropriate.
- Having all children 12 and under sit in the back seat.
For the study, the analyzed data from the 2009 National
Electronic Injury Surveillance System-All Injury Program injuries
treated in emergency departments nationwide, as well as 2008
federal data on self-reported risk behaviors.
CDC officials noted that increased seat belt use could save not
only lives, but untold billions lost to injuries and time lost from
In 2005, car crashes cost Americans $11 billion in injuries and
lost productivity, according to Frieden. "We cannot afford to
continue to lose the money and lives that are being lost to motor
vehicle crashes," he said.
For more information on safe driving, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and