CDC: Adult seat belt use at all-time high
January 4th, 2011
01:50 PM ET

CDC: Adult seat belt use at all-time high

Most Americans - 85% of adults - say they use seat belts regularly - an all-time high,  according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while this is strong improvement compared with  only 11% wearing seat belts in 1982, more can be done, says the CDC's director, Dr. Thomas Frieden.

"Not wearing seat belts is costing us lives and money," Frieden told reporters Tuesday. According to the agency's newest report on seat belt use and nonfatal car accidents among adults, auto crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for people ages 5 to 34.
Nearly 34,000 people died in traffic-related crashes in 2009, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The total lifetime medical costs attributed to car crashes in a single year tops $11 billion in a single year, says Frieden. That number goes up to $70 billion if you include loss of work, according to the report.

Every 14 seconds, an adult is treated in an emergency room as a result of a crash – an estimated 2.3 million adults were treated in emergency departments in 2009 alone, Frieden says.

"Wearing a seat belt on every trip has become the social norm," which is good news, Frieden says. Oregon, California, Washington, Hawaii, Texas, Puerto Rico and New Jersey all report seat belt use of over 90% among adults (this report only looked at people over the age of 18).

But the report also points out that 1 in 7 adults doesn't buckle up every time he or she gets behind the wheel. Health officials say wearing a seat belt reduces deaths and serious injuries in a crash in half. The report doesn't spell out when adults choose to wear a seat belt or not, but they emphasize the need to use it on every trip because there's no way to anticipate what will happen when you get behind the wheel.

Living in a state that requires you to buckle up evidently has a positive impact. Adults who live in states where a cop can pull you over if he sees you're not wearing a seat belt are about 10% more likely to do so (88% compliance according to the CDC report), than those living in states that don't have such a law on the books.

However 19 states do not have such "primary enforcement seat belt laws," and the CDC report concludes that 12,000 injuries and 450 deaths could have been prevented in those states if they had such a law on the books.

The first state law of any kind mandating seat belt use was enacted in 1984.

"One area where states can make a policy change that doesn't cost anything and can save lives and money," says Frieden, is to pass a primary enforcement seat belt law. Ensuring that everyone riding in the car has to buckle up and making sure that fines for non-compliance are high enough to persuade folks to use the seat belts their cars come with can all help reduce fatalities, injuries and financial costs, according to this new report.

soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. Bill

    except by the police which is reported to be about 49% usage

    January 4, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Steven

    Maybe it's because the other people have finally been naturally selected from the population.

    January 4, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jim X

    That means 15% are really stuck on stupid in this country. 45 million morons is quite a scary thought when you actually think about it.

    January 4, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Gunslinger

    I don't wear seat belts and never will, just because the gov't says I MUST. Bikers aren't required too, so why am I ? It's a matter of principal. Stupid,mmaybe, but then all bikers are stupid.

    January 4, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim X

      You put yourself at risk out of spite? Now that is really, really stupid.

      January 4, 2011 at 17:49 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      Did you seriously mention motorcycles? Do you think it's a good idea to bind yourself to a heavy object that can easily crush you? (Unlike a car, which acts as a cage)

      January 4, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
    • jay

      forgive me for saying so, but you sir are stupid. there is no logical reason not to.

      January 4, 2011 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
    • Nik

      Well Gunslinger, In my state of CA, you are required to wear it no matter what, or you end of with a ticket in the mail, for not wearing it, I have been an advocate for wearing it, since I was two years old. and I have been told by that by my mom. I remind people, but I can see it everyday. Now people are more aware. when they see me wear my safety vest, then they get the hint.

      January 4, 2011 at 21:33 | Report abuse |
  5. Gunslinger

    All bikers are morons on top of it....

    January 4, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cole

      As I said above...

      That you think bikers should wear seat belts says a lot about you.

      January 4, 2011 at 18:52 | Report abuse |
  6. Teekrul

    In several states bikers have to wear helmets... if they are required to use seat belts you going to be ok wearing helmets?

    January 4, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Greg

      The dumb thing with helmet laws is that in a lot of states, they're required to have a helmet, but not to wear it. So you see a bunch of bikers riding along with a helmet strapped to the back of their motorcycle protecting the back of their seat. Might as well not have the law at all.

      January 5, 2011 at 09:09 | Report abuse |
  7. Ed - Spring, Tx

    The idiots are slowly being taken out of the gene pool. Darwin at it's best.

    January 4, 2011 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Niko

    If the government can force me to wear a seatbelt why can't it force overweight people to stop eating fatty foods? Though I don't have the stats, I bet costs related to heart disease, heart attacks, high cholesterol, and diabetes top $11 billion annually.

    Just sayin'.

    January 4, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cole

      The purpose of the seat belt is to protect you if you get into a serious accident. When properly worn, it doesn't harm you, isn't an inconvenience and raises the odds of your survival.

      The purpose of fast food is to feed you. I eat fast food. Thanks to the 12+ hours a week I spend exercising, I'm in excellent health. In other words, fast food isn't bad.

      You're comparing apples to... Not even another fruit.

      January 4, 2011 at 18:50 | Report abuse |
    • automagic

      The government shouldn't control either. But since the Republicans and Democrats have set up a big controlling government, where other people have to pay for other people's stupidity, it's no wonder people are mum about restrictions. Forcing everyone to wear a seatbelt or eat healthy would lower healthcare costs that we're all going to be forced to pay, but at the cost of liberty. It's a terrible predicament.

      January 4, 2011 at 23:03 | Report abuse |
  9. MrsFizzy

    Yes, because they think it'll offset their risk of getting hurt if they have an accident because they're texting while driving – Good News!

    January 4, 2011 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Jeff

    Why would you NOT wear a seatbelt? S format people unless they fall on someone their not incontrol of a 4000 lb moving object. Not only does seatbelt keep YOU from flying out of a vehicle , it keeps you behind the wheel and in control of it. What if you ran off the road , hit a hole and was thrown in the back seat but your car is now crossing the median and going to hit someone coming the other way...how will you apply the brakes or turn the wheel from the back seat? Idiots don't think of these things.

    January 4, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Dickf

    As a fireman I cut just as many dead bodies out of car wreaks with or without seat belts.

    January 4, 2011 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jb

      trolll.. and nobody is saying it's 100% going to save everyone, but your chances of survival are much higher if you're wearing one

      January 5, 2011 at 01:59 | Report abuse |
    • TeeJay

      Always amazed at how First Aiders and Firefighters don't belive in seat belts. Dick, maybe some of the people who didn't die just got our of their seat belts, left the car and were standing on the sidewalk when you arrived. I survived collison with a school bus that ran a stop sign. The cop who arrived kept asking me, "where's the driver?" I kept saying ,"I'm the driver". He couldn't believe I was alive. He wore his belt from that day on. Not every accident is survivable. I cut a guy out of a car who hit the windshiled TWICE. He hit so hard he rebounded of the seat and hit the windshield in a different place the second time. It was all uneccesary, all he had to do was buckle up and he would have walked away.

      January 5, 2011 at 09:20 | Report abuse |
    • Ed

      @Dickf- I assume you are giving an accurate piece of data here, that you cut as many dead people from cars who are not wearing seat belts as you do people who do wear seat belts. If so, and we know over 80% of people wear seat belts, this clearly indicates that people who do not wear seat belts die in numbers far in excess to their incidence in the population of all passengers. Your claim actually proves the effectiveness of wearing seat belts. That you would not understand this when it is obvious does not speak well about your ability to understand simple statistics.

      January 5, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
  12. cobra

    I do not wear a seat belt for two reasons, 1. I don't like the government telling me what to do. 2. I have had two relatives die in accidents because they wear strapped in and killed when hit from the side and the belt held them in the way. So preach and complain all you want, wear the belt if it makes you feel great but leave the rest of us alone.

    January 4, 2011 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • automagic

      I don't like the government telling me what to do either, but that's not reason to do something stupid. For example, I don't like the government telling me I'm not allowed to use Crystal Meth. I think it should be legal. But that doesn't mean I'd ever use it personally even if it were legal. Likewise, just because the government wants to force you to wear a seatbelt doesn't mean it's a stupid idea. If it were optional, I'd continue wearing it anyway. For every anecdotal story you have about seatbelts allegedly contributing to death in an accident, there's a dozen where it saved people.

      January 4, 2011 at 23:08 | Report abuse |
  13. automagic

    Too bad turn signal usage seems to be at an all time low. There's this one intersection with a stop sign for only one of the ways, and the side that doesn't have a stop sign is permitted to cross the oncoming lane onto an off ramp, hence, why they have a stop sign. But so few people signal that they're turning left, that people will wait at that stop sign to see what you "really" do. So, the responsible have started signaling "right" to indicate to the people waiting that they're going straight, and not turning left across their lane.

    January 4, 2011 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. blackderby

    Seat belt saved my life in a roll over. My friend and I both walked away from the accident. In a separate accident my sister in law was not wearing one and flew out of the car. She is alive but she had a lot of surgeries.

    January 4, 2011 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sherri

      I am glad to hear that you wore your seatbelt and survived. Your family member was very lucky. She could have hit a tree, building, the road, (and been run over) or be partially ejected and rolled over when the car flips.

      January 5, 2011 at 01:47 | Report abuse |
  15. Sherri

    We have had several fatal accidents here due to people not wearing seatbelts. One lady had 3 kids in the car. They were buckled. She was not. They flipped. She was thrown from the car and died. Her family is going to sue the road dept. The thing is, if a car flips over, there is no reason to die. If you are buckled in,you are fine. If you are not buckled, you go out the window, hit the road, tree, car etc. I have several friends who lost kids because of this. Some are ejected partially, the car rolls, rolls over them and kills them. It only takes a second to buckle up. Whether you agree with the law or not it is still safer to do it than not do it. I have seen too many deaths due to NOT wearing a seat belt.

    January 5, 2011 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Daniel Caton

    Living in Florida, I wear a seat belt ONLY because the law mandates it. I can't afford to pay a ticket just to feed the local coffers – just FYI... the state is FAR more interested in citation revenue than they are your safety. I am a safe, responsible and courteous driver, which is more than I can say for MANY of my speeding, red-light and stop sign running, non-signalling sharers of the road. As others have stated, if I get killed for not wearing a seat belt, then that's MY problem, isn't it? The government needs to stay the hell out of my personal life, and worry about more important things. And yes, the police are the WORST roadway offenders. They routinely speed, weave in and out of traffic, and rarely signal a lane change. They are EXTREMELY poor role models, and hypocrites at best. Unless I'm breaking a REAL law, or driving recklessly, leave me and my unseat-belted self alone.

    January 5, 2011 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jb

      Similar to signs forbid people to walk on express ways.. it's their own choice to be safe or not right.. if they get hit by a car that's their own fault.. It's your choice if you want to inject a dose of heroin too.. you're not hurting anyone, how dare the government think about your safety and make laws to protect the citizens.. totally outrageous of them

      January 5, 2011 at 02:09 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      I wholeheartedly agree with you about the cops here in FL. Why they are never punished for reckless driving is beyond me. I once had a cop who was on my left side and all of a sudden, pulled a quick 180 without even giving the oncoming traffic time to stop or slow down. It amazes me that they don't cause accidents more than the regular drivers do. If I were a cop, and I saw a fellow officer driving recklessly and it wasn't because of an emergency, I'd pull him over and cite him. I wouldn't be the most popular officer on the force but I'm sorry, as enforcers of the law, police should also follow the law, even traffic laws.

      January 5, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
  17. Mike

    JB, so what are you saying? Are you being supportive that the seat belt law is BS, or trying to be lamely sarcastic?

    January 5, 2011 at 02:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Ian S.

    My life has been TWICE saved by seatbelts. The reason why adult usage is at an all-time high, is not only due to enforcement or education, but also natural selection. The idiots with no sense get weened-out.

    January 5, 2011 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Barrett

    TWICE saved by seatbelts, Ian? You must be an excellent driver. The 'natural selection' theory is for those who rely on the government to run their lives, and are unwilling / unable to fend for themselves. I've been driving without a seatbelt for 36 years, and have never been involved in an accident. Fate has failed to 'ween me out', perhaps because I'm a good driver, and not reliant on the nanny-state. Bet I pay less than you for car insurance. Who's the idiot?

    January 5, 2011 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GW

      You drive without a seat belt and brag about it? You are.

      January 5, 2011 at 08:15 | Report abuse |
  20. Barrett

    Not bragging about it, GW. Just reporting the facts.

    January 5, 2011 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael Wong

      There are people who played Russian Roulette and survived too. It doesn't make it a smart choice.

      January 5, 2011 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
  21. Barrett

    Thanks, Mike, for your very fine analogy. I guess that not wearing a seatbelt while driving responsibly and obeying traffic laws is indeed the same as playing Russian Roulette.

    Is there ANYONE out there with a brain who cares to comment intelligently on this subject?

    January 5, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      You can drive as safely as you want, but I am putting on make-up, texting, itoxicated, and going 20 MPH over the speed limit. I'm driving right next to you. Do you trust me with your life?

      January 5, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      Your case is that since you've never been in an accident it's okay for you to not wear a seat belt. That's a foolish statement and shows that you completely missed the point. What you said only makes sense if the purpose of seat belts were to prevent accidents. They don't. Their purpose is to help mitigate injuries if you get into an accident.

      By your reasoning, we should get rid of all safety features in a car and protest the government for making manufacturers put them in. "Why should I pay for features that can save my life when I've never been in an accident?" While we're at it, let's get rid of all health insurance. After all, if you're healthy, what's the point of having some financial backup in case you get hurt?

      What's the point of taking some common sense precautions when something bad hasn't happened to you (yet)? Oh... Probably because when the stakes are high you want to do everything within reason to help make sure you come out okay if something goes wrong.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:38 | Report abuse |
  22. Bill

    I have always worn my seatbelt since I became a driver, and usually wore it as a child thanks to encouragement from mom. I would most likely be dead if I didn't have this habit. I was in a major wreck 7 years ago. My car hit some ice on the highway, lost control, spun out, hit a light pole and rolled. I ended up hanging from my seatbelt upside down staring at the ground through my windshield. I was incredibly lucky because my car hit the pole in the trunk and not my door, but the seatbelt prevented me from being hurled out my side window or into the windshield or to bounce off the roof of the car. Contents from my trunk were strewn about approximately 100 feet from where my car ended up. I walked away from the accident without a scratch on me.

    You can't control everything, even if you're the best driver in the world; that's why we call them accidents.

    In conclusion, you are a moron if you don't wear your seatbelt for whatever reason.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. jacksays

    My father had a blowout from a defective tire as he was entering the highway and nearing cruising speed. His vehicle veered across the median, the two lanes on the opposite side of the road, slammed into a guardrail running along the roadway, the vehicle flipping onto its side and sliding down the guardrail until it ended whereupon the vehicle fell onto its side and ultimately sliding down a hillside while on it's side until finally coming to rest at the bottom of the small hill.

    His injuries? Nothing. Not even a scratch – and the vehicle took the brunt of the impact on the drivers' side.

    Why? He was wearing his seatbelt.

    That being said I'm heartily AGAINST seat belt/helmet laws. I think if you're dumb enough not to wear them then you'll be killed and rid us of more stupid people (hopefully before procreating.)

    Please don't lecture me about how wonderful a driver you are, either. YOU being the wonderful, safe driver isn't the issue – it's the other guy. Personally, I drive defensively as I was taught in high school. Assume everyone else is out to get you, pay attention, and you'll be fine. (No makeup, no eating, no coffee, no texting, and handsfree for your phone if you must.)

    January 5, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Del Knudson

    Perhaps we should have a law that would put a cap on the amount of money spent on saving the life and limbs of someone who is drunk, or hasn't worn a seat belt, or drove stupidly. I have assisted in a hospital spending of a $million and more on a person in an auto accident. You all are taxed to treat and rehab such a person.

    January 5, 2011 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Yossarian

    No seat belt law can do nearly as much as the incessant yelping that my vehicle makes if I don't put my belt on. That is truly the driving force for use of the belt, since I'm too lazy to find the fuse that would shut it off.

    January 5, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Pull my finger

    Make a template of the male connector then cut the piece from some plastic or tupperware top. Works like a charm and never hear that silly alarm.

    I dont wear a seatbelt and never will...F-off govt.

    January 5, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sloppy

      gee, nevermind the excuses. why don't you just come right out and say "I'm an idiot" and be done with it

      .........Darwin at work right before our eyes folks.

      January 27, 2012 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
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  28. zig

    Just think of all the people that die each year because they have worn their seatbelts. You should be able to decide for your self since you are responsible for your self. If wearing a seatbelt saved all lives then it would be a good law. Bad law.

    January 6, 2012 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. tim

    the only difference between a harley and a hoover is where you put the dirtbag..im glad some people dont wear seatbelts, it gets them out of the gene pool

    January 27, 2012 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. zig

    Right on Tim., ZIG

    February 2, 2012 at 02:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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