WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The number of traffic deaths on U.S. roads last year reached a record low, while seat belt use continued to climb, the U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Monday, April 6.
New state-by-state data show that Michigan has the highest seat belt use, while Massachusetts has the lowest.
"Lower fatalities and higher seat belt use are trends we want to see," said LaHood. "States like Michigan are raising the bar on seat belt use, making communities safer and keeping families intact."
In Michigan, the belt use rate was 97.2 percent in 2008. By contrast, Massachusetts was 66.8 percent.
The DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 37, 313 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2008. It's the lowest number of deaths on U.S. roads since 1961, when 36,285 lives were lost. The nation also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded in 2008 at 1.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, down from 1.36 in 2007.
The survey shows that jurisdictions with primary belt laws continue to exhibit higher use rates than those with weaker laws. In Maine, for example, belt use increased from 79.8 percent to 83 percent a year after the state enacted a primary seat belt law.
Additionally, survey results released Monday also showed 16 states and territories achieved use rates of 90 percent or higher. Those were Michigan, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Maryland, Iowa, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, Delaware, Indiana, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Illinois and the District of Columbia. The states with the lowest use rates, all below 70 percent, were Massachusetts, Wyoming and New Hampshire.