Buckle Up!

Study examines rates of seat belt use and motor vehicle injury

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Of all the ways to die, motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common in the United States. For those between the ages of 5 and 34, car crashes are the leading cause of death.

Aside from completely avoiding cars, the best way to avoid injuries or fatalities in crashes is to wear a seat belt.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examines trends in motor vehicle-occupant injuries and seat belt use among adults. The study finds that seat belt use in the United States has increased while the number of nonfatal injuries has decreased.

Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), researchers estimated a 4.5 percent increase (from 80.5 percent to 85 percent) in seat belt use. Correspondingly, the researchers found a decrease in nonfatal crash-related injuries.

Analyzing crash-related injury data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System - All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP), researchers reported a 15.6 percent decrease in motor vehicle-occupant injuries from 2001 to 2009.

These findings offer positive news for car safety advocates. However, the study's authors are quick to point out a large number of people continue to be treated for injuries involving motor vehicles.

Adopted by many states, primary enforcement laws - which allow officers to pull over and ticket drivers without requiring any other citation - are highly recommended and have been shown to increase seat belt use. However, many states have not implemented such laws. The study's authors conclude by urging those states to enact primary enforcement of seat belt use.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 6, 2011
Last Updated:
January 7, 2011