CDC study finds seat belt use remains higher in states with primary enforcement seat belt laws

Seat belt use continues to be higher in states with primary enforcement seat belt laws according to a study released by CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention in the Journal of Safety Research.

The study summarizes trends in self-reported seat belt use from 2002 to 2010 and compares 2010 seat belt use in states with primary versus secondary enforcement laws. Primary seat belt laws allow police officers to stop vehicles and issue tickets solely for seat belt violations. Secondary seat belt laws allow police officers to give tickets for seat belt violations only after stopping drivers for another reason. As of July 2012, 32 states had primary seat belt laws.

According to the CDC study, self-reported seat belt use in the United States increased from 80% in 2002 to 87% in 2010. In 2010, 11 of the 32 states with primary seat belt laws and the District of Columbia reached seat belt use of 90% or higher. None of the states with secondary laws reached the 90% milestone. Overall seat belt use in 2010 was nine percentage points higher in states with primary laws (89%) compared to states with secondary laws (80%).

CDC researchers used the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data to estimate the prevalence of self-reported seat belt use among adults in the United States.

Motor vehicle crashes kill more people in the first three decades of life than any other cause. Using seat belts reduces the risk of dying in a crash by about 45%.  Child safety seats reduce fatal injury by 71% among infants and by 54% among toddlers. Belt-positioning booster seats reduce the risk for injury by 59% compared with seat belts alone.

CDC encourages everyone to buckle on every trip and make sure children are properly buckled up in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt based on a child’s weight, height, and age.

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For an online version of the study, visit

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