Seat Belt Usage Up in 37 States
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Seat-belt-use rates increased in 37 states this year, a fact that federal highway safety officials attribute to increased awareness and police enforcement, according to a report by the Associated Press on November 23.Arizona and Hawaii achieved seat-belt-use rates of more than 95 percent, the highest ever reported, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The national seat-belt-use rate in 2004 was 80 percent, also an all-time high. Mississippi improved its seat belt use rate by 1.6 percent but still had the lowest rate in the nation at 63.2 percent. Massachusetts, Arkansas and South Carolina were the only other states with belt use rates at 65 percent or lower. NHTSA Administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge said seat belt advertising campaigns combined with police enforcement have helped boost the numbers. Most states collected their data in June, shortly after a $30 million national advertising campaign. Primary seat-belt laws, which allow police to stop a motorist for not wearing a seat belt, also may have helped increase usage levels, NHTSA said. Tennessee, which passed a primary belt law in July 2004, saw its belt use rise from 68.5 percent in 2003 to 72 percent in 2004. Still, the contribution of primary belt laws appears to be mixed. Arizona, with the highest usage rate of 95.3 percent, doesn´t have a primary seat-belt law; the other five states with usage rates of more than 90 percent — California, Hawaii, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington — have them. Puerto Rico, which had a usage rate of 90.1 percent, also has a primary belt law.