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Passenger Seat Belt Usage Rises

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Dec. 4, 2012—Seat belt use among American vehicle passengers reached an all-time high in 2012, according to research results released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

According to the NHTSA's annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey, this year’s seat belt use in the U.S. reached a record 86 percent, a 2 percent increase compared to the 84 percent seat belt usage rate in 2011. The NHTSA said seat belt use has been steadily increasing since 1994.

The southern region of the country experienced the most dramatic increase with seat belt use, rising to 85 percent in 2012 compared to 80 percent in 2011.

"Thanks to the ongoing work of our state and local partners and national efforts such as 'Click it or Ticket,' we've made steady gains in belt use in recent years," said David Strickland, administrator of the NHTSA. "Moving forward, it will be critical to build on this success using a multi-faceted approach that combines good laws, effective enforcement, and public education and awareness."

The NHTSA said seat belt use continues to be higher in states that have primary belt laws, which permit law enforcement officers to stop drivers and issue citations solely for not using a seat belt without additional traffic violations. Currently, 32 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have passed primary laws requiring seat belt use. Another 17 states have passed secondary laws.

New Hampshire is the only U.S. state that has not yet enacted either primary or secondary seat belt laws. The state does have a primary child passenger safety law that applies to all drivers and passengers under the age of 18.

"When it comes to driving safely, one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and your family is to use a seat belt," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “…we're urging everyone on our roadways to buckle up—every trip, every time."

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