September 30, 2005

US auto safety belt use hits record 82 percent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Estimated auto safety belt use
nationwide is up 2 percent to a record 82 percent, the U.S.
Transportation Department said on Friday.

Auto safety regulators said the belt-use increase between
June 2004 and June 2005 likely prevented 540 deaths and 8,000
injuries in auto crashes.

The data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration came from observations of 207,000 drivers and
front-seat passengers at more than 2,000 sites.

The highest belt-use rate was seen in the West at 85
percent. The lowest was the Northeast at 78 percent. Gains were
seen among pickup truck drivers and in rural areas where most
crash deaths occur.

More than 42,600 people were killed in traffic accidents
last year. About a quarter of the total fatalities occurred in
rollover crashes, most involving sport utility vehicles and
pickups, safety figures show. Nearly two-thirds of rollover
victims were not wearing seat belts. Safety advocates say
higher seat belt use and better belt design would save more
lives in rollovers.

A new federal highway law offers financial incentives to
states that adopt the toughest, or primary, belt laws.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have primary
laws, which allow police to stop drivers solely for not wearing
seat belts. South Carolina's primary belt law takes effect in