Since 1975, seat belts are estimated to have saved 374,276 lives, with 14,955 saved in 2017 alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that using lap and shoulder seat belts reduces the risk of:

  • Front seat passenger car occupant deaths by 45%
  • Front seat passenger car occupant moderate to critical injuries by 50%
  • Front seat light truck occupant deaths by 60%
  • Front seat light truck occupant moderate to critical injuries by 65%
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The data clearly reflects the safety impact of seat belt use. In 2000, only 70.7% of front seat passengers were observed using seat belts, and 50.7% of occupant deaths were unrestrained. The latest 2017 data shows that seat belt use has risen to 89.7%, and unrestrained occupants death has dropped to 39.1%.

Seat belt use estimates come from the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), conducted annually by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NOPUS includes the observation of drivers and right-front passengers of passenger vehicles with no commercial or governmental markings.

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The youngest and oldest victims experience the smallest percent of  unrestrained passenger vehicle occupant deaths; 22% of deaths among children age 0 to 3 are unrestrained, while 26% of deaths among adults 75 and older are unrestrained. This compares sharply with the 25 to 34 age group, which experiences 59% unrestrained deaths.

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The infographic below helps quantify the benefits of using seat belts/restraints, and reveals the higher proportion of unrestrained deaths among males and of unrestrained deaths at night versus daytime.

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How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables

Sources:

Enriquez, J., & Pickrell, T.M. (2019, January). Seat belt use in 2018 – Overall results. (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 812 662). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2019, April). Occupant protection in passenger vehicles: 2017 data (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 691). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2019, 2013, 2010, 2007). Lives saved in (2017, 2012, 2008, 2006) by restraint use and minimum-drinking-age laws (Traffic Safety Facts Crash Stats. Report No. DOT HS 812 683, 811 851, 811 153, 810 869). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

See data details