Washington, D.C. – The number of traffic deaths on U.S. roads reached a record low in 2008, while seatbelt use continued to climb, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

New state-by-state data showed that Michigan has the highest seatbelt use, at 97.2 per cent, while Massachusetts registered the lowest at 66.8 per cent.

“Lower fatalities and higher seatbelt use are trends we want to see,” LaHood said. “States like Michigan are raising the bar on seatbelt use, making communities safer and keeping families intact.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that 37,313 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2008, the lowest number of deaths on U.S. roads since 1961. The country also saw the lowest fataility rate ever recorded in 2008, at 1.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled, down from 1.36 in 2007.

The survey showed that jursidictions with primary belt laws (which allow an officer to ticket a driver for not wearing a seatbelt, without any other traffic offenses taking place) continue to exhibit higher use rates than those with weaker secondary belt laws, which allow ticketing for seatbelts only in conjunction with another traffic offense. In Maine, belt use increased from 79.8  to 83 per cent a year after the state enacted a primary seatbelt law.

States and territories with the highest use rates of 90 per cent or higher were Michigan, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Maryland, Iowa, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois and the Districtof Columbia. Those with the lowest rates, all below 70 per cent, were Massachusetts, Wyoming and New Hampshire.

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