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Differences in Seat Belt Use Across the Country

In 1982, only 11 percent of Americans reported using a seat belt regularly. Since then, the American public has come a long way regarding its viewpoint on seat belts and the role seat belts play in reducing injury and the number of deaths that result from car accidents. Despite a seemingly wholesale change in American attitudes towards seat belt safety, different areas of the country have different seat belt use habits.

According to a new report issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the states that have the highest percentage of seat belt use are the West Coast states of Oregon, California and Washington. Oregon reported the highest percentage of people that said they always wear a seat belt with 94 percent. California came in second with a percentage of 93.2 percent, and Washington state placed third with 92 percent. The states that had the lowest percentage of regular seat belt use were North and South Dakota. The percentage of people in North Dakota that reported they always wear a seat belt is 59.2 percent. The percentage in South Dakota was 59.7 percent.

The rate of seat belt use in different states seems to correlate with the type of seat belt laws that each respective state has. California, Oregon and Washington all have mandatory seat belt laws that allow police to pull vehicles over if an occupant is not wearing a seat belt. The Dakotas both have laws where police can ticket a vehicle occupant for not wearing a seat belt but only after pulling the vehicle over for another reason. While it is generally recognized that seat belts help prevent injury in a car accident, one in seven adults still do not wear a seat belt for every trip they make.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Californians Are Among the Most Likely to Use Seat Belts," Rong-Gong Lin II, 1/6/11

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