Photo/Story Gallery 2003

Good News About Seat Belts

Buckleigh the dog buckled up.Good news about seat belts! Seat belt use has jumped to 79%–the highest national average ever! This significant increase means more than 1,000 lives were saved, and the cost to society reduced by at least $3.2 billion. In fact, seat belt use increased in every region of the U.S., according to the recent National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS). In 2002, the national seat belt usage rate was 75%.

Pictured left, Buckleigh always wears his seat belt – every time, every ride! Do You?

In a recent press conference, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said, “We should all be proud of the efforts that went into this historic accomplishment. But make no mistake about it—our work is not done yet. We will not be satisfied until everyone buckles up for every trip.”

The 2003 NOPUS was conducted in June 2003, after a massive Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign designed to encourage seat belt usage all across the United States. “This was a prodigious nationwide effort with broad support and enthusiasm from national, state, and local governments and the private sector,” according to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety) President, Jeffrey Runge, M.D., who spoke at the Governor’s Annual Highway Safety meeting in New Orleans.

Other results from the 2003 NOPUS, which is based upon observations at over 2,000 sites nationwide, include:  (

  • States with primary seat belt laws averaged 83% seat belt use, while states (such as Florida) with only secondary laws averaged 75%. At this time, 20 states have primary seat belt laws.
  • Pick-up truck occupants registered the lowest for seat belt use – only 69%.
  • SUV and Van occupants registered the highest for seat belt use – 83%.
  • Seat belt usage rates were lowest in the Northeast (74%); followed by Midwest (75%); highest in the West (84%), and the South (80%).

A happy little boy riding safely in his new booster seat.More good news! Child restraint use among infants has reached 99% compliance nationwide; 94% for children ages 1-3; and 83% for children 4 to 7 (booster seat age).

Pictured right: A happy little boy rides safely in his new booster seat.

Although, current statistics show that more Americans are buckling up than ever before, more must be done to educate the public about the benefits of wearing a seat belt. Despite recent significant increases in seat belt and child restraint use across the nation, occupants continue to die or suffer serious injury on our nation’s roadways. Secretary Mineta cautions against complacency, stating, “it is simply unacceptable that nearly 43,000 Americans died in traffic crashes on our roads last year.”

To further increase U.S. seat belt use, President Bush underscored his commitment to public safety in his Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill, effectively doubling the funding for traffic safety over the previous administration. The Bush administration has approved over $57 million in grant money for 2004 to help states toughen their programs to increase seat belt and child restraint use over the next six years. States, like Florida, can look forward to this increase of support to help encourage citizens to buckle up for safety!