The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates seat belts saved the lives of 304,679 passenger vehicle occupants over age 5 between 1975 and 2012; 12,174 lives were saved in 2012 alone. If all passenger vehicle occupants over age 5 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 86 percent in 2012. During this time period:
- West Virginia had the highest increase in seatbelt use. It went from 52.3 percent in 2001 to 84 percent in 2012.
- Indiana motorists increased their seat belt usage by 26.2 percent in those 11 years.
- Montana had no increase in seatbelt use and South Dakota had an increase of only 2.2 percent.
By 2012, 16 additional states passed primary seatbelt laws, West Virginia, enacted a primary seatbelt law in 2013 and primary enforcement laws have been introduced in Missouri, Ohio, and Vermont so far in 2014.
NHTSA cites a notable difference in seatbelt use among states with primary laws and states without. In 2012, primary law states had an average 90 percent seatbelt use rate, whereas other states had a 78 percent seatbelt use rate average.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.