Currently, 34 states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws and 15 states have secondary laws requiring adult front-seat occupants to use seat belts. Primary enforcement laws permit police officers to stop and cite motorists solely for not using a seat belt. In states with secondary enforcement, police can only enforce the law if the motorist has been pulled over for another violation first. As of 2019, New Hampshire is the only state without a seat belt law.
Please note: Because of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many states were not able to conduct observations to estimate seat belt use in 2020.
Use the interactive map to explore state level trends regarding unrestrained occupant deaths, percentage of observed seat belt use, and percentage of occupant deaths that are unrestrained. Note that states with primary enforcement laws tend to have higher observed seat belt use and a lower percentage of unrestrained deaths.
For example, a primary enforcement state like Wisconsin has achieved 89.2% observed seat belt use among front seat occupants in passenger vehicles; 54% of occupant deaths are unrestrained. South Dakota, a secondary law state, has 68.3% observed seat belt use; 67% of occupant deaths are unrestrained.
New Hampshire, the only state without a seat belt law, has only 72.4% observed seat belt usage; 71% of occupant deaths are unrestrained.
- Data Table
Source: National Safety Council analysis of NHTSA FARS data and National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2021, April. Seat Belt Use in 2020 – Use Rates in the States and Territories (Traffic Safety Facts Crash Stats. Report No. DOT HS 813 109). Washington, DC: NHTSA.
State law data: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety