WASHINGTON – More Americans are buckling up than ever before, with 83 per cent of vehicle occupants using seatbelts during daylight hours, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters announced today. In 2007, 82 per cent used seatbelts.

“More and more Americans are realizing that the mere seconds it takes to buckle up can mean the difference between life and death,” Secretary Peters said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that approximately 270 lives are saved for every one per cent increase in belt use. Acting NHTSA Administrator David Kelly said a contributing factor for such historically high seatbelt use is high-visibility law enforcement efforts, such as the Department’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

“We are committed to supporting state and local law enforcement in their front-line efforts to encourage belt use,” Kelly said.

According to the report, 84 per cent of passenger car occupants are buckling up. Even more people, 86 per cent, are buckling up in vans and SUVs while pickup truck occupants buckled up 74 per cent of the time.

The report finds that safety belt use increased or remained level in every region of the country, with the highest use being reported in the West (93 per cent), and the lowest in the Midwest and Northeast (79 per cent). The South reported 81 per cent.

The report reveals that states with primary belt laws are averaging about 13 percentage points higher for seatbelt use (88 per cent) than states with secondary laws (75 per cent). In primary belt law states, officers can issue a citation for a seat-belt violation alone. In secondary law states, seat belt citations are allowed only after a stop for another violation.

The report also notes that belt use on expressways is now at an estimated 90 per cent while belt use on lower-speed “surface” streets remains at 80 per cent.

Seatbelt use and other data are collected annually by NHTSA as part of the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS). The latest survey, conducted in June of 2008, involved daylight observations of vehicle occupant behavior at more than 1800 sites nationwide.

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