Seat belt safety statistics & facts


Even though they are a classic invention from the 1800s, only 10% of Americans used them in 1980. The general awareness and education have improved over time. Recent polling by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), shows that national belt use was at 90% by 2019.

Nearly half of the 37,000 victims killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2017 were not wearing their seat belts. An estimated 2,549 motorists could have made it home to their families if they had buckled up in 2017, according to estimates.

NHTSA did a study on car crashes from 1960 to 2012, to determine how different vehicle safety technologies affected accidents. Popular safety measures included vehicle airbags and electronic stability control. Study found that seatbelts save more lives than any other safety measure combined. In fact, seat belts were responsible for saving 329,715 lives.

Seat belt statistics

The numbers prove that seat belts save lives.

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Americans are still passionate about the road. This is a reason why seat belts continue to be emphasized as cars become faster, smarter, and better. Even with all the technological advances that the Digital Age has made, the seat belts are still a vital life-saving device behind the wheel.

Why is seatbelts so important?

Your parents will always remind you to use your seat belt. Seat belts can save your life and keep you safe in an accident. According to the NHTSA, seatbelt use has saved nearly 375,000 lives since 1975.

Sit belts offer many benefits:

  • This prevents you being ejected out of the vehicle
  • Protects you against the dangerous force of an inflatable bag, which can cause serious injury if you aren’t properly buckled.
  • You ensure the safety of your passengers
  • Get Car Insurance Rates Reduced

It is no surprise that nearly half of all fatalities in passenger vehicles in 2019 occurred without seat belts.

In 2021, statistics on seat belts

Although there has been a significant increase in seatbelt use over the last 20 years, Richmond’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), offers interesting insights into how coronavirus impacts seat belt use as well as fatalities related to seatbelts.

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CTB reports that there has been an increase in speed-related accidents involving seat belts due to coronavirus. A State of Emergency was declared March 12, 2020. Shannon Valentine, Secretary of Transportation, said that “It is concerning to see that the number fatalities in this period involving speed and unrestrained travel has increased by 78% compared with 2019.”

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), reports that there has been a significant increase in speed-related fatalities. 41% of 2019 deaths can be attributed to speed, and 70% unrestrained.

The history of seatbelts

The invention of seat belts is not as recent as you might think. Seat belts are a precursor of modern flight. They were created by Sir George Cayley, a wealthy engineer from Yorkshire, England, in the 19th Century. These belts were originally used to attach pilots to gliders, but they were later made into passenger vehicles by Edward J. Claghorn in 1885.

In 1922, the first patent was issued . The seat belt was introduced at Indy 500. In 1959, the three-point seatbelt was introduced. In 1961, Wisconsin was the first state to officially declare seatbelt use. Seven years later, all new cars were required to wear seat belts .

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It is clear that seat belts have had a significant impact on driver safety. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts have saved nearly 375,000 lives since 1975 when records began.

Statistics on seat belt accidents

Seat Belts Passenger Vehicles – Estimated Lifes Saved, 1975-2017

YearCurrent YearSave LivesAdditional Lives Could have Been Saved by Seat Belt Use
1975 – 200813,312241,865

Risk factors for seat belt use

The Traffic Safety Facts Research Note of the NHTSA studies seat belt usage over 15 years. These observations provide interesting insights into the risk factors that influence trends in seatbelt use.

Time of Day

The time of day is a significant risk factor. According to the report, more people use their seat belts throughout the day, which accounts for fewer deaths in passenger vehicles. Commuters and motorists who drive on weekdays accounted for almost 91% of all deaths by 2019. There was also an increase in seat belt usage by rush-hour drivers. The highest rise in seatbelt use is seen by motorists who drive on weekdays outside of rush hour.

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NHTSA found that even in clear weather, seat belt use increases. 2019 saw an increase in seat belt usage from 89.3% to 90.9% in 2018, compared with 2018.


Although the country has seen a significant increase in seatbelt use, some areas are better than others.

NHTSA discovered that the West saw the greatest increase in seatbelt use, rising from 92.7% in 2019 to 94.5%.

It is true that seatbelt use depends on where you live. North Dakota is the least used state, with Oregon having the highest usage. This is especially dangerous when rural areas are more susceptible to motor vehicle accident fatalities. Rural areas have a lower level of residential traffic and a greater animal population than urban areas. It is also prone to speeding along dark, long, and open roads.


The report shows that drivers are still motivated by the law and the consequences of not wearing a seat belt. People who live in states that have seat belt laws are more likely to use their seat belts than those who live in states without any laws. The NHTSA discovered that primary law states saw a jump in seat belt usage from 90.6% up to 92% within a year, from 2018 to 2019.

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Is it common to drive without a seatbelt?

Despite the fact that seatbelt use has increased across the country, many people still fail to use them. NHTSA reports that even passenger belt use is on the rise, rising to 90.7% in 2019, compared to 89.6% for 2018.

The impact of the 2017 election is already significant.

  • The usage of seat belts was at 89.6% in 2014, an increase of 11% over 2014.
  • Nearly 15,000 Americans were saved by seat belts in the United States.
  • Additional 2,549 lives could have been saved by seat belts
  • 47% of motor vehicle crash victims were not wearing seatbelts.

Although overall seatbelt use has increased over the past ten years, it fluctuates significantly from year to year.

10-Year-Old Data on Seat Belt Use

YearSeat Belt Use

Consecutions of driving without a belt

Each year, thousands to even thousands of drivers are killed by a lack of proper seat belt use. In 2017, more than 18,000 people died because they were not wearing a seat belt. More than 2.2 million injuries related to crashes were treated in U.S. emergency departments in 2018. Study also shows that teens and young drivers between 18-24 are most at risk for non-fatal injuries in a crash.

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Driving is not without risk. There are also many factors that cannot be avoided, including inclement weather, construction, and lane closings. Additional risks may be presented by other vehicles, including drunk driving, distracted driving and texting while driving. Drivers can protect themselves by wearing seat belts. This gives them an advantage when it comes time to return home safely.

NHTSA has stated that seat belts are “the single most effective safety technology in automobile history.” This means that every time you get into the car, your chance of being in an accident is reduced by half.

This isn’t just for adults. Research shows that nearly half of all children aged 8-12 who died in car accidents in 2016 were not wearing their seat belts at time of crash. This is a difference that saves 262 lives and 262 families who otherwise would have been left behind. In the same year, almost 15,000 lives were saved by seat belts.

Use of seat belts correctly

It is also a problem to use the seat belts correctly. If seat belts don’t get used correctly, they can be rendered ineffective and could significantly affect your safety inside a vehicle. If you apply significant force, the shoulder belt will not be able to hold you down.

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Although car manufacturers are adding new safety features to their vehicles, many of these innovations still require the use of your seatbelt.

Seat belts are designed to protect passengers and drivers from being ejected from their cars in case of an accident. This is especially important because if someone is thrown from a car, it almost always results in fatal injuries.

Another technology that has been widely recognized for its ability to save lives is the airbag. However, if you don’t have your seatbelt on, it can be fatal or ineffective.

This is yet another proof that seat belt use can be enforced with the help the law.

Today, 35 states have current primary seat belt laws that apply to all front-seat occupants. These laws are also enforced by Guam, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Puerto Rico, Guam, Guam, Guam, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. There are secondary laws that affect adult front seat occupants in fifteen states. Rear seat belt use is also enforced in 39 states, Washington, D.C., and two territories.

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State by state, seat belt laws

You can be punished for not wearing a seatbelt by the various state laws in your country.

State Seat Belt LawPrimary enforcementSecondary enforcementEligible ageChildren’s Special RequirementsFine
AlabamaYesRear passengers15 years and older$25
AlaskaYes16 years and older$15
ArizonaNoFront seat: For ages 8 and over
All seats available for ages 8-15
ArkansasYesFront seat: 15 years old and older$25
CaliforniaYes16 years and older$20
ColoradoNoFront seat: 16 years old and older$71
ConnecticutYesFront seat: 8+ Years$50
DelawareYes16 years and older$25
District of ColumbiaYes16 years and older$50
FloridaYesFront seat: 6+ Years
All seats: 6-17 years
GeorgiaYesFront seat: 18+
All seats: 8-17 years
HawaiiYes8 years and older$45
IdahoNo7 years and older$10
IllinoisYes16 years and older$25
IndianaYes16 years and older$25
IowaYes18 years and older$25
KansasYesRear occupants younger than 18 years14 years and older$30 – $60
KentuckyYes8 years and olderYes$25
LouisianaYes13 years and older$50
MaineYes18 years and older$50
MarylandYesRear occupants16 years and older$50
MassachusettsNo13 years and older$25
MichiganYesFront seat: 16 years old and older$25
MinnesotaYes8 years and olderYes$25
MissouriNoAges 16 and below16 years and older$10
MontanaNo6 years and older$20
NebraskaNo18 years and older$25
NevadaNo6 years and older$25
New HampshireNo LawN/AN/A
New JerseyYesRear occupants8 years and olderYes$20
New MexicoYes18 years and older$25
New YorkYes16 years and older$50
North CarolinaYesRear occupants16 years and older$25
North DakotaNoFront seat: 18 years or older20
OhioNoFront seat: 15 years old and older
All seats: Ages 8-14
$30 driver, $20 passenger
OklahomaYesFront seat: 9 or older$20
OregonYes6 years and older$115
PennsylvaniaNoAges 18 or underFront seat: 18 years or older$10
Rhode IslandYes18 years and older$40
South CarolinaYes8 years and older$25
South DakotaNoFront seat: 18 years or older$20
TennesseeYesFront seat: 16 years old and older$30
TexasYes8 years and olderYes$200
UtahYes16 years and older$45
VermontNo18 years and older$25
VirginiaNoFront seat: 18 years or older$25
WashingtonYes16 years and older$124
West VirginiaYesFront seat: 8 or older
All seats: 8-17 years
WisconsinYes8 years and older$10
WyomingNo9 and over$25 driver, $10 passenger

Car insurance rates affected by driving without a belt

Not only can seat belts save your life, but they also have a significant impact on the cost of your car insurance.

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As more states adopt seat belt legislation, penalties are more common. They can have an impact on your driving record and notify your insurance companies of the infraction.

A seat belt violation is considered a moving offense in many states. Non-moving violations are unlikely to have an impact on your car insurance. However, a moving violation could cause your premiums increase. Your premium will increase by about ten percent. However, it can vary depending on the car insurance company. These increases are much less than those for more serious offenses like drunk driving or reckless speeding. Your seatbelt violation may even be excused if you have a track record of being a safe and responsible driver.

Check with your agent before you sign up to a new policy for car insurance. You may qualify for minor violations forgiveness similar to accident forgiveness.

While it is best to buckle up in your car, it doesn’t hurt to be informed.

Safety belts can save lives

Seat belts can save your life and keep you safe on the roads. Seat belts have been able to save more than 2500 lives in just 12 months.

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However, things are improving. New reports show that the national use of seatbelts has increased to almost 91% by 2019. Continued use of car seat belts is the best way to prevent fatal crashes.

Car accidents can happen at any moment and anywhere. Although responsible driving and slow speeds can help, you still have to be aware of other drivers and other circumstances that may affect your ability to avoid being involved in a crash. According to the NHTSA, most fatal crashes occur within 25 miles of home and at speeds less than 40 miles an hour.

You can ensure your safety by wearing your seatbelt.

How to increase seat belt use

You can encourage widespread use of seatbelts by doing more than just wearing your belt.

  • Encourage teens. NHTSA data shows that children are less likely to use their seat belts as they get older. You can reinforce seat belt usage as an adult so that your children will be more likely to use it when they get older and become drivers. As a parent, one of the most powerful things you can do is to lead by example.
  • You must require everyone riding along with you to wear a seatbelt. Your car, your rules. You can ensure everyone’s safety by requiring your passengers to wear their seat belts when you are behind the wheel. Even if you are not the driver, it is still a good idea to encourage your passengers to use their seat belts.
  • Make sure you find the perfect fit. Some seat belts are not suitable for everyone. Comfort is a key factor in whether you use your seatbelt. If you require a custom fit, make sure to inspect the fit of your seat belts before buying a car.
  • Pregnant? It is more important to use a seatbelt when you are pregnant. This will protect you and your baby. While pregnant women should still use a seatbelt, you can discuss with your doctor the best fit.
  • Advocate for better legislation. Studies have shown that states with primary legislation experience higher seatbelt use rates. They can achieve rates up to 92%. States without legislation are only 83% compliant. This makes it a strong argument for continued and expanded legislation in all 50 states and U.S. territory.