1.  Seat Belts
2.  Drowsy Driving
3.  Distracted Driving
4.  Aggressive Driving/Road Rage
5.  Motorcycle Safety
6.  Impaired Driving
7.  Novice Drivers
8.  School Bus Safety
9.  Airbags
10.  Railway Safety
11.  Trucks
12.  Motor Vehicles
  1. ACTS Study Examines State Safety Belt, Child Restraint Laws
  2. African American Safety Belt use is below average
  3. Buckle-Up America
  4. Buckle-Up America Key Message
  5. Buckle Up - Your Best Protection in a Crash
  6. IRC: Reported Safety Belt use High, But Improvement Needed
  7. NHTSA Researches Effectiveness of Occupant Protection Systems
  8. Increased Safety Belt Use Supported By Many During Operation ABC
  9. Major Increase in Safety Belt Use in States with Primary Enforcement
  10. Presidential Initiative For Increasing Seat Belt Use Nationwide
  11. Slater Calls on Black Physicians To Encourage Safety Belt Use
  12. Safety Belt Use is Increasing, According to NHTSA Survey
  13. Slater praises Meharry medical college, GM for report on safety belt use

ACTS Study Examines State Safety Belt, Child Restraint Laws

The Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety (ACTS) has just released a study that includes the total fine a driver would face in each of the 50 states when an adult safety belt or child restraint law is broken. State laws are very specific about monetary penalties, but court costs, surcharges, and processing fees often significantly increase the actual fine.

The research, current as of March, also explains how motor vehicle departments have implemented these safety laws. Nonmonetary penalties include whether points are assessed, if the violation is noted on a driver's record, and if the violation is otherwise considered for license suspension. The research reveals that fines can be more than doubled when court costs and other fees are added. Total monetary penalties for violating child restraint laws are significantly higher than safety belt violations.

In order to compare the severity of penalties in each state, ACTS chose a fairly common but serious traffic infraction-running a stop sign-as a benchmark against which to make comparisons.

ACTS presents the study's information in three ways. First, the findings for each state are described in detail for each of the three areas of law (safety belt, child restraint, and stop sign). Secondly, three master tables are provided comparing each state on a specific area of law. Third, important aspects of findings are identified for convenience and all quick comparison across all states.

The study shows that adult safety belt laws range from no fine to minimum fines. For example, in Wyoming, a credit of $5 is given for wearing a belt when stopped for a primary enforcement violation. The average total fine is $33 for all 50 states (see chart below).

Failure to properly restrain children results in fines that range from a low of zero in North Dakota (even though it is against the law) to a high of $100 in several states, and up to $2,000 for a third offense in Connecticut. In California, additional court costs result in nearly triple the total cost for a violator. The average total fine is $64.

Total penalties for running a stop sign vary widely, from a low of $20 in North Dakota to a high of $168 in Vermont. The average fine is $76.

For more information on the report A Summary of Adult Seat Belt & Child Safety Restraint Statutes in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, call ACTS, (703) 243-7501.

Adult Safety Belt Total Penalty Child Restraint Total Penalty Failure To Obey Stop Sign Total Penalty *
Penalty Level Number of States Penalty Level Number of States Penalty Level Number of States
Under $10 3 Under $10 2 Under $10 0
$10 - $25 27 $10 - $25 2 $10 - $25 1
$25 - $50 9 $25 - $50 13 $25 - $50 5
$50 - $ 75 8 $50 - $ 75 18 $50 - $ 75 16
$ 75 - $99 4 $ 75 - $99 9 $ 75 - $99 12
Over $100 0 Over $100 7 Over $100 10
* Seven states had insufficient data

This document was last updated on June 19, 2000.

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African-American Safety Belt Use Is Below Average

Meharry Medical College of Nashville, Tenn., and General Motors Corp. recently conducted a study that confirms that safety belt use among African-Americans is lower than the national average. African-Americans are also more likely to be killed in motor vehicle crashes than whites.

"By identifying lower seat belt use among African-Americans as an important public safety issue and recommending ways to increase seat belt use, the study will help us reach out to all Americans, especially to urban populations, to improve highway safety," said National Highway Traffic Safety Administration chief Ricardo Martinez, M.D.

African-American youth are 50 percent less likely to buckle up than whites or Hispanics, according to the study. As many as 1,300 lives could be saved and 26,000 injuries prevented each year at a cost savings of nearly $2.6 billion if African-Americans used safety belts 100 percent of the time.

"We know that increasing seat belt use will save thousands of young lives each and every year," said U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. "The more we know about the particular needs of diverse populations, the more we are able to develop sound prevention strategies to produce healthy communities for Americans."

The report attempts to build a case for a comprehensive national education effort for passing primary safety belt laws. Currently, 17 states have primary enforcement laws that allow law enforcement officers to stop motorists just for not wearing safety belts. The report says that primary laws have been thwarted because African-Americans are concerned about differential law enforcement based on race.

"While the report does call for collection on differential traffic enforcement, it concludes that it is more important to immediately begin passing and enforcing tougher seat belt laws to save the lives of African-Americans, children, and all Americans now," said Dr. John Maupin, president of Meharry Medical College.

States with secondary enforcement safety belt laws average 63 percent belt use while states with primary enforcement laws average 78 percent. According to the Meharry report, for black males age 18-29, these percentages are even lower: 58 percent in states with primary laws and 46 percent in states with secondary laws.

The report has several recommendations for achieving a credible healthy and safety approach for increased safety belt use among African-Americans:

  • Engaging health, medical, and public safety organizations to raise public awareness of the importance of safety belts and child safety seats
  • Enacting primary safety belt laws with zero tolerance for differential enforcement
  • Conducting studies where African-Americans are the specific focus
  • Researching and implementing safety belt checkpoints, including the use of historically black college and university students conducting the checkpoints and ordinary citizens observing
  • Enlisting the help of law enforcement and media to provide models of safety belt use for children and young adults.

For more information on Achieving a Credible Health and Safety Approach to Increasing Seat Belt Use Among African-Americans, visit Meharry Medical College website, www.mmc.edu/seatbelt_safety.

This document was posted on January 2, 2000.

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Buckle-Up America

Using a seat belt is the most effective way that people can protect themselves from being injured in a motor vehicle crash, yet only 68 percent of Americans regularly use seat belts while driving or riding in motor vehicles. In January 1997, President Clinton directed the Secretary of Transportation to develop a plan for increasing the use of seat belts. This plan, Presidential Initiative for Increasing Seat Belt Use Nationwide: Recommendations from the Secretary of Transportation, set national goals to increase seat belt use to 85 percent by 2000 and 90 percent by 2005 and reduce child occupant fatalities 15 percent by 2000 and 25 percent by 2005. The plan also recognized the importance of using partnerships "to help America reach its potential of saving lives and preventing injuries."

Ten months later, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator Ricardo Martinez hosted a nationally televised meeting to energize partnerships in support of the Presidential Initiative. They also announced the publication of the Buckle-Up America: There's Just Too Much to Lose Campaign Kit. this folio contains strategies and messages, logo sheets, sample press releases, public service announcements, sample op-ed pieces, and other resources. Copies are available from NHTSA Regional Offices. The Presidential Initiative is available at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/airbags/presbelt/, or from Karen Scott at (202) 366-9567.

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Buckle Up America - Key Messages

What motivates people to buckle up? What information helps others understand why everyone should ride buckled - on every trip? Research conducted for Buckle Up America shows that the following statements best summarize the critical messages that work to move people to action.

No matter what state you live in, these persuasive messages most often will be the same. These key messages can help guide your communications as you create state and local programs. And when questions arise about seat belts and child passenger safety issues, these key messages can help you answer them.


Seat Belts
Are a
Every hour someone dies in America simply because they didnīt buckle up.

Failure to buckle up contributes to more fatalities than any other single traffic safety-related behavior.

Despite terrible traffic problems such as aggressive driving, increasing seat belt use is still the single most effective thing we can do to save lives and reduce injuries on Americaīs roadways.


Adults who donīt buckle up are sending children a deadly message that it is all right not to wear a seat belt. Children model adult behavior. Research shows that if a driver is unbuckled, 70 percent of the time children riding in that vehicle wonīt be buckled either.

Data suggests that education alone is not doing the job with young people, especially males ages 16 to 25 - the age group least likely to buckle up. They simply do not believe they will be injured or killed. Yet they are the nationīs highest-risk drivers, with more drunk driving, more speeding, and more crashes. Neither education nor fear of injury or death is strong enough to motivate this tough-to-reach group. Rather, it takes stronger seat belt laws and high visibility enforcement campaigns to get them to buckle up.


Seat belts are the most effective safety devices in vehicles today, estimated to save 9,500 lives each year. Yet only 68 percent of the motor vehicle occupants are buckled. In 1996, more than 60 percent of the occupants killed in fatal crashes were unrestrained.

If 90 percent of Americans buckle up, we will prevent more than 5,500 deaths and 132,000 injuries annually.


The cost of unbuckled drivers and passengers goes beyond those killed and the loss to their families. We all pay for those who donīt buckle up - in higher taxes, higher health care and higher insurance costs.

On average, inpatient hospital care costs for an unbelted crash victim are 50 percent higher than those for a belted crash victim. Society bears 85 percent of those costs, not the individuals involved. Every American pays about $580 a year toward the cost of crashes. If everyone buckled up, this figure would drop significantly.

By reaching the goal of 90 percent seat belt use, and 25 percent reduction in child fatalities by the year 2005, we will save $8.8 billion annually.

is Part
of the

Buckle Up America is a broad, public-private partnership of community and health groups, safety advocates, businesses, law enforcement, legislators, public officials and concerned citizens. These partners realize that seat belts and child safety seats save lives and money. And because everyone is affected when others ride unbuckled, everyone must be a part of the solution.

Legislation States with secondary enforcement laws average only 63 percent belt use. But states with primary (standard) enforcement seat belt laws average 78 percent belt use - 15 percentage points higher. Currently, only 13 states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt enforcement laws.

Everyone would agree that protecting lives with seat belts is at least as important as a broken tail light or littering. Yet, while virtually every state has primary laws that allow law enforcement officers to stop and ticket a violator for having a broken tail light or for tossing trash out the window, not all states have primary laws for seat belt use.

State laws should explicitly require children to be in age- and size-appropriate child safety seats or seat belts. But many states currently have "gaps" in child passenger safety laws - holes that leave certain aged children vulnerable in certain seating positions. States should close these gaps to protect all children in all seating positions.

High Visibility
Research shows that high visibility enforcement works because, with many part-time and non-belt users, the fear of a citation and significant fine outweighs their fear of being injured or killed in a crash. When asked whether they support primary enforcement laws - laws that give the police the authority to stop and ticket an unbuckled driver just as they do other routine violations of the law like littering or driving with a broken tail light - the public overwhelming supports stronger laws. (Source: Public Opinion Strategies, July 1997)

During the past four years, when no new state laws were enacted and no widespread enforcement efforts were undertaken, national seat belt use has remained at just under 68 percent. But in those places that implemented high visibility enforcement programs, seat belt use rates increased dramatically.

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IRC: Reported Safety Belt Use High, But Improvement Needed

Reported use of safety belts and child restraints has nearly doubled from 43 percent in 1987 to 87 percent in 1997, according to auto accident claimants in a new survey by the Insurance Research Council (IRC).

The study reveals that usage is highest among women and all older adults and lowest among children 7-16 years old. Individuals in crashes who reported wearing safety belts were much less likely to be seriously injured, disabled, or killed than those not wearing belts.

Legislation and increased public education about the effectiveness of safety belts in saving lives have successfully encouraged Americans to wear belts, according to IRC senior vice president Elizabeth Sprinkel. "However, more work needs to be done to increase use among all Americans -- especially children and teens," she explained.

Reported usage is highest among occupants of passenger cars and sport-utility vehicles and lowest among occupants of pickup trucks. This is troubling because pickup trucks have a greater propensity than other vehicles to roll over in a crash, IRC said.

The study shows that rollover crashes occurring in pickup trucks result in higher disability and fatality rates, maybe because of lower safety belt usage among these vehicles' occupants, IRC noted.

SUVs, New Drivers Don't Mix

The study also points out that SUV may not be the best choice for teenage drivers "since these inexperienced drivers tend to overcorrect when turning, resulting in an even greater likelihood of rolling the vehicle." SUV drivers aged 20 or younger are more likely than older SUV drivers to roll the vehicle over and, thus, be exposed to greater risk of injury.

For more information on Characteristics of Auto Accidents: An Analysis of Auto Injury Claims, contact IRC, (610) 644-2212; e-mail irc@cpcuiia.org; website www.ircweb.org.

This document was last updated on March 23, 2001.

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NHTSA Researches Effectiveness of Occupant Protection Systems

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has just released its fourth report to Congress on the effectiveness of occupant protection systems and safety belt use.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) directed the secretary of the Department of Transportation to report on the effectiveness of occupant protection systems based on their actual use and on lap and shoulder belt use by the general public and various groups at both the state and national levels.

The fourth report contains many findings. It concludes that air bags provide fatality protection in potentially fatal crashes. Drivers protected by air bags had a reduced fatality risk of 31 percent in purely frontal crashes, 19 percent in all frontal crashes, and 11percent in all crashes. Based on 11 percent effectiveness in all crashes, it is estimated that air bags have saved 2,263 lives during 1987-97, including 842 in 1997 alone.

Driver air bags seem to be as effective in purely frontal crashes for light trucks (36 percent) as they are in passenger cars (31 percent). In purely frontal crashes, passenger air bags appear to be as effective for right-front passengers age 13 and older (32 percent) as driver air bags are for drivers (31 percent).

Air bags provide about a 9 percent reduction in fatality risk for the belted driver (relative to a belted driver without an air bag) and 14 percent for the unbelted driver in all crashes. The 9 percent effectiveness of air bags for belted drivers, coupled with the 45 percent effectiveness of lap-shoulder belts, yields an estimated 50 percent fatality-reducing effectiveness for the air bag plus lap-shoulder belt system when safety belts are used.

For right-front passengers less than 13 years old in frontal crashes, there is a higher fatality risk in cars with dual air bags than for children in comparable cars without passenger air bags. In December 1991, NHTSA issued a consumer advisory warning against placing rear-facing child safety seats in front of passenger-side air bags.

The report also concluded that concerning overall injury reduction for drivers for serious injury, the air bag plus lap-shoulder belt and the manual lap-shoulder belts alone each provided about 64 percent reduction in injury risk. Automatic belts exhibited 49 percent effectiveness. The estimated effectiveness of the air bag alone was 42 percent.

The combination of air bag plus lap-shoulder belt provides the greatest moderate injury protection (66 percent) followed by manual lap-shoulder belts (53 percent), automatic belts (51 percent), and the air bag alone (10 percent).

The report also mentions that air bags involve a trade-off among certain types of injury. The addition of an air bag to the lap-shoulder belt increases head injury protection at both the moderate and serious injury levels, as well as chest injury protection at the moderate injury level. At the same time, it increases the risk of arm injury.

Challenges regarding air bag deployment are also included in the report. The first challenge involves the increased risk of upper extremity injury from air bags. The second, and more challenging issue, involves child-passenger air bag interaction.

This document was last updated on July 28, 1999.

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Increased Safety Belt Use Supported By Many During Operation ABC

During Operation ABC Mobilization: America Buckles Up Children, Department of Transportation secretary Rodney Slater announced large increases in child safety seat and safety belt use.

"Seat belts and child safety seats save lives and prevent serious, costly injuries… By persuading more motorists to buckle up and use child safety seats correctly we can improve safety," Slater said.

Each year, child safety seats save the lives of more than 300 children under 5 years old, and safety belts save more than 10,000 lives in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

At the kickoff of Operation ABC May 24, Slater joined government officials, elected leaders, business and community organizations, and nearly 6,000 enforcement agencies to call for zero tolerance for drivers who don't buckle up children.

According to a 1998 National Occupant Protection Survey from NHTSA, restraint use among toddlers aged 1 to 4 increased 60.1 percent in 1996 to 87 percent in 1998, and restraint use among infants less than 1 year old increased from 85.2 percent in 1996 to 93 percent in 1998.

The survey also shows restraint use among those aged 5 to 15 years old increased from 64.6 percent in1996 to 68.7 percent in 1998, restraint use among 16 to 24 year-olds increased from 49.5 percent in 1996 to 54.7 percent in 1998, restraint use among those aged 25 to 69 years old increased from 62.4 percent in 1996 to 66.8 percent in 1998, and restraint use among seniors aged 69 and over increased from 68.8 percent to 73.9 percent.

"These numbers provide strong evidence that our increased enforcement efforts are paying off," said NHTSA administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. "We are saving lives, but we must continue our fight so that all children are buckled up on every ride."

Operation ABC is supported by the American Hospital Association, National SAFE KIDS Campaign, the National Sheriffs Association, Operation CARE, and many other business and community organizations.

This document was last updated on June 23, 1999.

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Major Increase in Safety Belt Use in States with Primary Enforcement

States with the highest estimated increases in safety belt use since 1999 are Alabama (from 57.9 to 70.6 percent in 2000), New Jersey (from 63.3 to 74.2 percent), and Michigan (from 70.1 to 83.5 percent). Belt use jumped in 2000 in states that adopted primary belt use laws, according to new statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

States with primary enforcement allow police officers to stop a driver solely for not wearing a safety belt. Safety belt use rates at or above the Department of Transportation's desired performance goal of 85 percent belt use for 2000 were reported by California (88.9 percent), Puerto Rico (87 percent), New Mexico (86.6 percent), and Maryland (85 percent).

The District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington all reported use rates greater than 80 percent. The lowest rate, 47.7 percent, occurred in North Dakota.

Twenty-eight states reported increases in safety belt use both from 1998 to 1999 and from 1999 to 2000. The largest was Alabama, which went from 52 percent in 1998 to 57.9 percent in 1999 to 70.6 percent in 2000. Only three states decreased in these years, including Mississippi, which dropped from 58 percent in 1998 to 54.5 percent in 1999 to 50.4 percent in 2000.

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Safety Belt Use is Increasing, According to NHTSA Survey

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) reveals that in 1998, the overall safety belt use rate was 68.9 percent (see chart below) compared to 61.3 percent in 1996 and 58 percent in 1994. Despite increases in belt use, many safety advocates still believe that rate are much too low.

Data from the Moving Traffic Study and the Controlled Intersection Study were used. Date from the latter study will be released at a later date.

Almost 4,000 sites across the country were monitored from September to November 1998. Shoulder belt use was obtained for drivers and right-front passengers only. Every day of the week and all daylight hours were covered; commercial and emergency vehicles were excluded.

There are two main categories of vehicles: passenger cars and light trucks. In 1998, NOPUS broke the light truck category into two subcategories: pickup trucks and other passenger vehicles (vans, minivans, and sport utility vehicles (SUV's)). A total of 199,412 passenger cars, 135,505 were pickup trucks), and 1,444 motorcycles were observed.

In general, belt use for drivers and passengers of passenger cars and light trucks has increased substantially since 1996. Overall helmet use increased by 3.1 percent in 1998 compared to 1996. However, when motorcycle operators are separated from riders, there is a continuing downward trend in the motorcycle operators' use of helmets. Conversely, motorcycle riders' use of helmets increased.

For more information, contact the National Center for Statistics & Analysis, (202) 366-4198; fax (202) 366-7078.

1998 Percent of Belt and Helmet Use by Region*

Vehicle and Person Type United States Northeast Midwest South West
Overall Belt Use 68.9 (3.4) 63 (5.6) 61 (4.4) 73.6 (6.6) 76.4 (6.6)
Passenger Cars 71.3 (3.4) 65.6 (5.2) 62.2 (4.2) 77.6 (5.4) 80.6 (5.6)
Drivers 72.4 (3.4) 66.4 (5.8) 63.6 (4.6) 78.9 (5.2) 80.8 (5.0)
Passengers 68.1 (3.8) 62.8 (5.4) 57.9 (3.6) 73.3 (6.2) 79.9 (8.2)
Light Trucks 65.7 (4.0) 57 (6.8) 59.9 (5.2) 69.1 (7.6) 71.6 (8.8)
Drivers 67.1 (4.2) 57.8 (7.2) 60.8 (5.0) 71.2 (8.6) 72.9 (8.4)
Passengers 61.4 (4.6) 54.1 (7.2) 56.9 (5.4) 62.2 (6.8) 68.1 (10.8)
Vans/SUV's 70.1 (4.0) 61 (6.2) 63.2 (6.4) 75.1 (6.0) 78.6 (7.2)
Drivers 71.4 (4.0) 62 (6.4) 64.4 (6.2) 77.7 (7.4) 78.6 (9.0)
Passengers 66.4 (5.0) 57.7 (6.4) 59.4 (6.4) 67.3 (7.0) 78.6 (9.0)
Pickup Trucks 58.7 (5.2) 49.1 (11.8) 54.5 (5.2) 60.6 (9.6) 64.4 (11.2)
Drivers 60.2 (5.2) 49.4 (12.0) 55 (5.0) 62.1 (9.6) 67.3 (10.8)
Passengers 53.9 (6.2) 48.1 (12.0) 52.7 (7.0) 54.9 (10.8) 56.1 (13.4)
Helmets 67.2 (11.0) 6.5 (17.0) 78.5 (22.8) 44.2 (11.6) 82.8 (8.4)
Operators 64.4 (10.4) 62.8 (19.0) 77.7 (22.8) 43.9 (12.4) 79.3 (9.4)
Riders 84.4 (10.2) 84.8 (22.8) 90.5 (19.4) 47.7 (23.0) 94.9 (5.0)
*Each estimate has a margin of error or standard error, which is given in parenthesis

This document was last updated on November 3, 1999.

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Slater Calls on Black Physicians To Encourage Safety Belt Use

Department of Transportation secretary Rodney Slater recently asked members of the National Medical Association (NMA)-a group of 25,000 African-American physicians to emphasize traffic safety messages for patients "as the antidote to disproportionately high traffic-related deaths and injuries among African-Americans."

When compared with the general population, African-Americans are over represented in the number of traffic-related fatalities and injuries. Observed safety belt use is 4 percent lower than the national average, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Seventy-five percent of African-Americans killed in car crashes are unrestrained, compared to 63 percent among the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children Suffer Most

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for African-Americans through age 14 and the second leading cause of death for African-American males aged 15-24. Per mile traveled, black children have almost three times greater risk of dying than white children, according to a study by Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In addition, African-Americans are 50 percent less likely to be buckled than white or Hispanic youths.

"By urging patients to buckle up and drive safely, NMA members can help change people's habits-and thus prevent injury and save lives," Stater explained.

Currently, NMA is participating in a blue ribbon panel to increase safety belt use among African-Americans and has been involved in several other DOT safety initiatives.

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

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