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Seat Belt Use

General Statistics

  • 55 percent of young adults (ages 13-20) that died in crashes were not wearing a seat belt in 2012, a 3 percent decrease from 2011.1

  • Teens have the lowest seat belt use of any age group.
  • Seat belts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by about half. 2 
  • Teens who live in states with primary enforcement seat belt laws are 12 percent more likely to buckle up as drivers and 15 percent more likely to buckle up as passengers compared to teens who reside in states with weaker secondary enforcement seat belt laws.3
  • As teens move the stages of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL), they are more likely to stay buckled up in primary enforcement states than in secondary enforcement states.3
  • Teens more frequently associate seat belt use with a “safe driver” rather than a “good driver.”4
  • Some common teen responses for not wearing seat belts: the belts are uncomfortable; the trip was short; forgetfulness; lack of understanding about their importance in a crash; and not being "cool."5
  • Male teens continue to lag behind female teens in seat belt use. In 2009, 11.5 percent say they rarely or never wear a seat belt as a passenger, compared to 7.7 percent of high school females.6
  • Driving programs that combine education, peer-to-peer strategies, publicized enforcement, and parental monitoring may show potential for increasing teen seat belt use. 7
  1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts:2012 Occupant Protection. Washington, DC: US Dept. of Transportation. 
  2. 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Center for Statistics and Analysis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  3. Garcia-Espana JF. Safety Belt Laws and Disparities in Safety Belt Use Among US High School Drivers. American Journal of Public Health.  April 19, 2012 (online).
  4. Barg FK, et al. Teen Perceptions of Good Drivers and Safe Drivers: Implications for Reaching Adolescents. Injury Prevention. February 10, 2009.
  5. Winston FK, et al. Eds. Driving: Through the Eyes of Teens. Published by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Companies®. 2007.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Youth Online: Comprehensive Results 2009. Accessed April 7, 2010.
  7. Hanna C. Children's Safety Network. Increasing Seat Belt Use Among Teens: A Summary of Research, Resources, and Programs. April 2007.
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