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Seat Belt Use Now Surpasses 90 Percent

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It's true - seat belts do save lives. For years, this message has been hammered home in countless public service advertisements, in driver's ed classes and in other ways. These efforts are delivering impressive results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2015 alone, more than 14,000 lives were saved because drivers and passengers were wearing seat belts. And since 1975, seat belts have saved more than 345,000 lives.

A new large-scale study completed by NHTSA shows a significant increase in seat belt use from 2015 to 2016. The National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) conducted in June 2016 showed that daytime seat belt use by drivers and front seat passengers from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. reached 90.1 percent. This is a significant increase from the 88.5 percent that was measured in 2015.

In its press release touting these results, NHTSA notes that the increase in seat belt use and the resulting decrease in traffic fatalities can be attributed to many factors. Remember those crash test dummy ads in the 80s and 90s featuring Vince and Larry? They certainly played an important role in increasing seat belt use. But other factors were important too, including seat belt laws enacted by state governments, enforcement efforts by state and local police, funding for advertising from Congress and private sources, advocacy and education by insurance companies, and automobile manufacturers that included seat belt alarms as standard equipment.

NHTSA's goal now is to get seat belt use up to 100 percent. Will that ever happen? In terms of the lives that would be saved and the injuries that would be avoided, it's certainly worth the effort

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