Nine out of 10 U.S. drivers and passengers value their lives. It’s that last one, we all need to worry about—and not just during this Thanksgiving holiday.
Seat belt use in the United States has reached 90%, the highest level since the government began regularly tracking the data in 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
That’s a promising figure, especially because the recent rise in traffic fatalities might have been even bigger without so many seat belt-wearers out there. The number of people who died on U.S. roads last year rose 7.2% to 35,092 from 2014, the biggest increase in five decades, according to data released in August.
It’s a positive statistic with the exception of the remaining 10% of holdouts who still aren’t wearing seat belts. It’s not the best group to be in as the latest data shows. Some 48% of people killed in crashes in 2015 were not wearing their seat belt, NHTSA says.
When used properly, a lap or shoulder belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45%, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50%, NHTSA says.
It also prevents passengers from being tossed about the car’s cabin and becoming a weapon against everyone else who chose to belt themselves in.
“Vehicles have many more safety features today than ever before, but there is nothing more important than the simple seat belt,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.
The data released this week was drawn from a large-scale observational study conducted by NHTSA in June 2016.which shows daytime belt use of drivers and right-front passengers of passenger vehicles reached 90.1%. In 2015, 88.5% wore seat belts.
The study, known as the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, is the only survey that provides nationwide probability-based observed data on seat belt use in the United States. The NOPUS also provides data on other types of restraints, such as child restraints and motorcycle helmets, and driver electronic device use.