The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that seat belts saved the lives of 304,679 passenger vehicle occupants over age five between 1975 and 2012; 12,174 lives were saved in 2012 alone. If all passenger vehicle occupants over age five wore seatbelts in 2012, 3,031 more lives would have been saved. In addition to saving lives, seat belts have also been shown to save money. NHTSA estimates that between 1975 and 2010 seat belt usage saved society $1.6 trillion in medical care, lost productivity, and other injury related economic costs.
In 2001, 17 states had primary seatbelt laws. According to NHTSA the national seat belt use increased from 73 percent in 2001 to 87 percent in 2013. During this time period:
- West Virginia had the highest increase in seatbelt use; it went from 52.3 percent in 2001 to 82.2 percent in 2013.
- Indiana motorists increased their seat belt usage by 24.2 percent in those 12 years.
- Montana had a 2.3 percent decrease in seatbelt use and South Dakota had an increase of 5.4 percent.
By 2013, 17 additional states passed primary seatbelt laws, bringing the total to 33 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with primary seatbelt laws. Primary enforcement laws have been introduced in Delaware, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Vermont in 2014. These measures have not yet passed.
NHTSA cites a notable difference in seatbelt use among states with primary laws and states without. In 2013, 19 primary law states reached 90 percent or higher seatbelt use rate, whereas only one secondary law state, Nevada, reached 90 percent use.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.