April 30, 2004

More than half of U.S. motorists killed in 2003 not wearing their seatbelts

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that fatalities on U.S. roads increased slightly in 2003 from 42,815 to 43,220 while injuries from motor vehicle crashes declined slightly to the lowest levels since such data have been kept.

Passenger car fatalities declined by 778, but SUV fatalities increased by 456, 55 percent of which were rollover crashes. This increase was partially accounted for by increases in SUV sales. Motorcycle fatalities rose by 11 percent.

Declining fatalities in passenger cars and injuries overall can be attributed to more crashworthy vehicles and increases in safety belt use, said the report.

Significantly, 58 percent of those killed in passenger vehicles were not wearing safety belts, and forty percent of all fatalities were alcohol-related.

“We need the cooperation of every American to drive responsibly, fasten his or her safety belt and care for each other’s safety on the roads,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, M.D. “Although we are seeing progress in some areas, our nation must take this epidemic seriously,” said Dr. Runge. “Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in American children and young adults, but that can change through personal responsibility and enforcement of laws and regulations.”

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