NEW YORK (MainStreet) – A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that the percentage of adults who always wear a seat belt rose to 85% by the end of 2008 (the latest data available), an increase largely attributed to new state laws mandating seat belt use.
That's up from 80% in 2002, when 18 states had “primary” seat belt laws, which allow police to pull over and ticket drivers based solely on a driver or passenger not wearing a seat belt. As of 2008, the number of states with such laws had risen to 26, and as one might expect, drivers in these states were significantly more likely to buckle up: 88% of drivers in “primary” states wore seat belts, versus 79% in states with secondary laws, which allow police officers to ticket drivers for not wearing seat belts only if they've pulled you over for another infraction like speeding.
Currently, 31 states have primary seat belt laws, while 18 other states have secondary seat belt laws. Only New Hampshire has no seat belt laws on the books, having evidently chosen to both live free and die. (Despite its lawless ways, New Hampshire road fatalities plummeted in 2009, and the state generally has fewer road deaths than the rest of the country, but we couldn’t resist.)
Leading the way on driver safety was Oregon, where 94% of drivers reported that they used seat belts whenever they drove. Meanwhile, North Dakota had the worst showing of the 50 states, with just 59% wearing a seat belt when they drove.
Despite the rise in seat belt use, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for people aged 5 to 34, according to the CDC.
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