September 6, 2013
North Carolina, once a leader in seat belt usage, saw vehicle restraint usage drop statewide last year.
North Carolina’s buckle-up rate fell to 87.5% in 2012, down from 89.5% in 2011. Seat belt usage rates are provided by the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, the only nationwide probability-based observational survey of seat belt use in the country.
“Wearing a seat belt or vehicle restraint is the safest single thing anyone in a vehicle can do,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “As we enter the last third of 2013, we urge every driver to buckle up and ensure every passenger is in a proper safety restraint, especially children.”
Seat belt usage reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45% and by 60% in trucks, SUVs and minivans, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“North Carolina should be commended for being the first state in the country to launch a ‘Click It or Ticket’ seat belt campaign 20 years ago,” said Parsons. “The hope is there will be an increase in restraint usage by the end of this year and a decrease in the percentage of unsecured traffic fatalities.”
North Carolina’s primary law applies only to the front seat and is secondary for the back seat.
The national average for seat belt usage for 2012 was 86%, up from 84% in 2011. Rates ranged from 66.5% in South Dakota to 96.9% in Washington. States with primary seat belt laws tend to have a higher usage rate (90%) than those with secondary laws (78%).
Through the first half of 2013, 41% of people killed in a vehicle crash in North Carolina were unrestrained - the same percentage as last year, according to state crash data.
According to NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data from 2011 (the most recent year national data is available), 43% of those who died in traffic crashes were unbelted. More than half of those who died unbelted (53%) were ages 16-35.
The annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey observes usage as it actually occurs at a random selection of roadway sites, and also provides the best tracking of the extent to which vehicle occupants in this country are buckling up.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members and the public with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.