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NHTSA Reports Major Gains in Seat Belt Use In States with New Primary Belt Laws

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

NHTSA Reports Major Gains in Seat Belt Use In States with New Primary Belt Laws

May 25, 2001

NHTSA 29-01
Friday, May 25, 2001
Contact: Elly Martin (202) 366-9550

Seat belt use jumped in 2000 for three states that enacted primary belt use laws during the year, according to newly released state statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In states with a primary seat belt law, motor vehicle occupants can be stopped and cited by law enforcement officials for not wearing their belts whether or not another violation has occurred. In states with secondary enforcement, the vehicle must have been stopped for another offense before the occupant can be cited for not wearing a belt.

States reporting the highest estimated increase in shoulder belt use since 1999 were Alabama (from 57.9 percent to 70.6 percent), New Jersey (from 63.3 percent to 74.2 percent), and Michigan (from 70.1 percent to 83.5 percent).

"We are extremely gratified to see these significant gains in seat belt use," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. "Every day lives are being saved through primary seat belt laws, and most recently through legislation that became law last year in Alabama, New Jersey and Michigan."

Seat belt use rates at or above the DOT's desired performance goal of 85 percent belt use for 2000 were reported by California (88.9 percent), Puerto Rico (87 percent), New Mexico (86.6 percent), and Maryland (85 percent).

The District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington all reported use rates greater than 80 percent. The lowest use rate reported was 47.7 percent in North Dakota.

Twenty-eight states reported increases in seat belt use both from 1998 to 1999 and from 1999 to 2000. The largest was Alabama, which went from 52 percent in 1998 to 57.9 percent in 1999 to 70.6 percent in 2000. Only three states decreased in both years. The largest decrease was reported by Mississippi, which dropped from 58 percent in 1998 to 54.5 percent in 1999 and to 50.4 percent in 2000.

Twenty-one states reported seat belt use rates at or above 71 percent, the nationwide estimate for overall front seat passenger shoulder belt use in 2000. This national estimate is based on the Fall 2000 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), which is conducted by NHTSA.

The latest state-by-state estimates of seat belt use were derived from surveys conducted by state agencies in accord with uniform NHTSA survey methods. Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico reported to NHTSA on their seat belt use rates for 2000.

The newly released NHTSA statistics are contained in a research note on the agency's web site at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/ncsa/ ###

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