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The Most Shocking Seat Belt Statistics

Last modified: Oct 12, 2022

Wearing a seat belt saves lives!
According to the US Department of Transportation numbers, most Americans (90.4%) are well aware of this FACT.  

In addition to that, we added a few more stats, facts and numbers on:

Before going into the details, let us give some highlights.

Interesting Seat Belt Statistics

If that is enough to convince you to wear a seat belt, here are more details on 

Why Should You Wear a Seat Belt?

How Many People Die From Not Wearing Seat Belts?

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among people aged between 1 and 54 in the United States. According to Traffic Safety Facts, 22,700 drivers and passengers were killed in car accidents in 2018, 43% of whom were unrestrained. 

In addition, young adult drivers and passengers aged between 18 and 24 have the highest crash-related non-fatal injury rates. (CDC) In 2018, emergency rooms in the US treated over 2.2 million crash-related injuries. (CDC

The leading causes of car crashes include: 

The best thing drivers and passengers can do to protect themselves from serious injuries is to wear a seat belt. It improves their chances of returning home to their families safely. 

But how effective are seat belts?

According to the NHTSA, “Seat belts are the single most effective safety technology in the history of the automobile.” When you’re wearing a seat belt, your chances of getting a moderate to critical injury in an accident reduce by 50%. 

Unfortunately, not only adults disregard a seatbelt. Statistics have revealed that nearly half of all children aged between 8 to 12 killed in car crashes in 2017 were unrestrained. (CDC)

Seat Belts Through History: Why Are Seat Belts Important?

Seat belts have saved over 375,000 lives since 1975. If this statistic isn’t enough to persuade you to wear a seat belt, let’s discuss some of the main benefits of seat belts that highlight just how vital a seat belt can be for drivers and passengers. 

As 47% of all fatalities among car crash victims in 2019 didn’t wear seat belts, there should be no doubt regarding the role seat belts play in keeping you safer on the road. (NHTSA)


Seat Belt History

When Was the First Seat Belt Invented?

If we look through seatbelt history, seat belts have been around for over a century, and the first patented seat belt was created on February 10, 1885, by American Edward J. Claghorn. It was meant to keep tourists safe in taxis in New York City. Over time, seat belts were slowly introduced into cars to help drivers and passengers stay in their seats. However, there was less emphasis on overall driving safety at that time. 

Who Invented a Seat Belt?

In the late 1800s, Englishman George Cayley invented the seat belt to help keep pilots inside their gliders. 

However, the three-point seat belt that we commonly see today in cars was designed in 1958 by Swedish engineer Nils Bohlin to better protect drivers and passengers. 

When Did Seat Belts Come Out in Cars?

Even though the seat belt was invented in the late 1800s, it wasn’t until the mid-1930s when several US physicians started testing lap belts and immediately saw their impact. After that, they began urging manufacturers to equip all cars with seat belts.

How Did Seat Belts Become Mandatory?

It was in the late 1950s when elected officials started studying the scientific findings of university crash tests. They were looking at ways to reduce driver fatality rates. The early 1960s saw several state legislatures passing laws requiring the use of seat belts in new cars. The movement led to a government response enforcing rules for better auto safety. 

When Did Seatbelts Become Standard?

Congress sanctioned the federal government to establish safety standards for new cars in 1966, and by 1968, padded dashboards, seat belts, and other safety features became mandatory equipment.

Seat Belt Safety


Seat Belt Safety for Adults

The NHTSA claims that wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to protect yourself during a car accident. It also states that vehicle seat belts are the most cost-effective public safety measure. In 2019, 47% of all passenger vehicle occupants who got killed were not wearing seat belts. 

Now, let’s discuss some of the ways seat belts keep you safe. 

What Is the First Way That Will Keep You Safe While Wearing a Seat Belt?

The primary purpose of the seat belt is to keep you safe and in one place when you’re driving. The force of the impact in a car accident can throw you out of the car, and you could get ejected from the vehicle through the windshield. The consequences of not wearing a seatbelt could be dire, resulting in severe damage and fatal injuries. But a properly working seat belt will keep you at a safe distance from the airbag and the dashboard. 

How Do Seat Belts Keep You Safe?

Seat belts offer the best protection against distracted, impaired, and aggressive drivers on the road. When you wear a seat belt and get into an accident, it helps keep you safe and secure inside the vehicle. In addition, it stops you from being ejected from your car, which might be fatal. If you don’t wear a seat belt, you could be thrown against the windshield and dashboard, which could cause broken ribs and serious head injuries. 

How Often Do Seat Belts Fail?

Even though seat belts are designed for driver’s safety, it’s not uncommon for seat belts to fail in a car crash. The NHTSA reports an estimated 3 million injuries and 40 thousand deaths every year due to seat belts failing to perform as expected in a car accident. (unionlawfirm.com)

How Do I Keep My Seat Belt From Choking Me?

To ensure that your seat belt doesn’t choke you, you must learn how to wear it properly. Start by ensuring the shoulder belt and lap belt are secured across the rib cage and pelvis, which will be able to withstand the force of the crash better than other parts of your body. Now, place the shoulder belt away from your neck and across the middle part of your chest. Finally, make sure the lap belt doesn’t rest on your stomach but across your hips. 

Seat Belt Laws by State

Sources: GHSAwww.iihs.org

Apart from New Hampshire, all the states, including the District of Columbia, have made it mandatory for adult front-seat occupants to wear seat belts.

In addition, 39 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories also have laws enforcing rear seat belt use for passengers. There are also separate child seat belt laws, which vary by state. Moreover, there is primary enforcement in 35 states and the District of Columbia. 

Primary enforcement laws authorize police officers to stop and cite motorists for not wearing seat belts. In states with secondary enforcement, police officers may only enforce the law when the motorist has been pulled over for another violation. 

It is estimated that primary enforcement laws are more effective at getting people to wear seat belts. In 2019, front-seat occupants' use of seat belts was 6% higher in states with primary enforcement compared to states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws (92% vs. 86%).

What Happens if a Front Seat Occupant Doesn’t Wear a Seat Belt?

In an accident, any individual not wearing a seat belt will be thrown forward at the speed the vehicle was moving until something stops them. That could be the dashboard, windscreen, or steering wheel. In most crashes, the individual can burst through the windows and be partially or entirely ejected from the car. 

They can be run over by their own vehicle or an oncoming vehicle and may hit fixed objects on the road. Even if the car has an airbag, the force at which the unrestrained individual hits the airbag may result in serious injuries or death. 

What Happens if My Rear Seat Passengers Don’t Wear a Seat Belt?

In an accident, rear-seat passengers who aren’t wearing a seat belts may be thrown forward until they hit an object, which is mainly the front seat. The force with which they will collide with the seat may cause serious injuries. In addition, their head can strike a blow to passengers in the front seat, which may kill or injure them.

Are There Any Fines for Not Wearing a Seat Belt?

There are demerit points and seat belt penalties for drivers who don’t wear a seat belt or haven’t ensured their passengers are wearing one. Unrestrained passengers aged 16 and older will also be fined. Moreover, drivers of the vehicle are responsible for passengers under 16 years old to wear seat belts or be seated in approved car seats.

Every individual in the car must have a proper seating position and wear a dedicated seat belt. It’s unsafe and illegal to have too many people in a vehicle, especially sitting on other people’s laps or on the floor. It’s also illegal for people to travel in the boot of the vehicle or any other part of the car designed to carry goods. 

Seat Belt Death Statistics by Year 

Seat belt statistics prove that seat belts are lifesavers, and when used correctly, they minimize the risk of fatal injury for front-seat car occupants by nearly 45%. (NHTSA) The good news is that seat belt use has gradually improved over the years. In 2000, only 70.7% of front-seat occupants used seat belts, and 50.9% of occupants who died chose not to wear them. (www.thezebra.com)

However, the latest data of 2020 revealed that seat belt use among front-seat occupants rose to 90.3%. (NHTSA) That’s an impressive jump, which shows that people now use seat belts more frequently when driving. 

How Many Lives Are Saved by Seat Belts Each Year?

Seat belts have saved millions of lives since they were mandatory in cars. Moreover, they helped cut the risk of fatal injuries by half by car drivers and passengers. In 2017, seat belts saved 14,955 people, and 2,549 more lives could have been saved if everyone had worn seat belts. (NHTSA)

What Percentage of Americans Use Seat Belts?

America has recently crossed an important road safety milestone, as Americans' seat belt use record reached a 90.4% rate in 2020. (NHTSA) Compared to the past decade, seat belt use has improved by roughly 5% as more Americans are now advocating the use of life-saving safety equipment. 

Lap Belt Injury Statistics 

Even though seat belts are designed to save your life and reduce the risk of suffering from fatal injuries, there’s no guarantee that you will remain unharmed after an accident. An improperly worn lap belt can cause injury to the back, neck, shoulders, abdomen, and chest. Shoulder injuries are also common among occupants who wear shoulder strap-style seat belts. 

If you suffer from chest pains, it could be a serious injury due to broken ribs or a fractured sternum. Using lap belts can also cause trauma to the spine, which is why you must always ensure that you are wearing your seat belt properly. 

What Injuries Can Seat Belts Cause?

A seat belt is essential to keep occupants in place and avoid serious injuries. Still, when an accident occurs, the force of the impact against another object or vehicle may lead to an injury. Some of the common injuries that seat belts can cause are:

What Area of the Body Is Common for Pediatric Lap Belt Injuries?

Lap belt injury in the abdominal area is most common among children wearing lap belts. Even though your child may suffer an injury, a lap belt can potentially save their life, which is why its use must be encouraged. 

What Is a Seat Belt Injury?

A seat belt injury is an injury caused by the use of a seat belt. The primary purpose of the seat belt is to keep you in place and stop you from being flung against objects inside the car or thrown out of the vehicle. A significant force can be transmitted at the sites of seat belt impact (shoulder, chest, and abdomen), causing some injuries to your body. Some of them include:

Are Lap Belts Still Legal?

Till the 1980s, three-point belts were available only for outboard front vehicle seats, while the back seats were often equipped with lap belts. However, due to the seat belt syndrome, all seating positions were eventually fitted with three-point belts. Since 2007, all new cars sold in the US require lap and shoulder belts in the middle rear seats. 

Seat Belt Use by Demographic 

Some people are more likely to wear seat belts when driving than others, and studies have found that it is all about the drivers’ age. Young drivers and teenagers like to push their limits and break laws, which is why they are least likely to wear seat belts when driving. Now, let’s look at seat belt use by demographic. 

What Demographic Is Least Likely to Wear Seat Belts?

Sources: CDC

The age group between 18 and 24 years old is less likely to wear seat belts than any other demographic. It is mainly because they believe they are invulnerable and can drive better unrestrained. Most young drivers and teens also think that wearing a seat belt isn’t cool and is something only older drivers, like their parents, do. 

Who Is Most Likely to Wear a Seat Belt?

Source: CDC

According to seat belt statistics, females are more likely to wear seat belts while driving than males. Studies have also revealed that people over 35 years old are more likely to wear seat belts. 

How Does Wearing a Seat Belt Affect Your Insurance?

While seat belts can save your life, they can also affect your insurance rates. 

As most states enforce seat belt laws, receiving a seat belt ticket can affect your driving record and result in higher insurance rates

Most states consider a seat belt infraction a moving violation. While non-moving violations have no impact on your car insurance, moving violations cause your insurance premiums to go up. 

You can expect an increase of around 10% on your insurance premiums after a moving violation. However, it varies between insurers and is not as costly as other violations like drunk driving or reckless speeding. Your seat belt violation may also be forgiven if you have a history of being a responsible and safe driver. 

Is It Necessary to Replace Seat Belts After an Accident?

If you get involved in an accident, you should have your car inspected and get the damages fixed. 

In most cases, you’ll also need to repair or replace your seat belts. Even though internal damage may not always be noticeable, it’s best to get your car checked by a mechanic. That way, you’ll be surely protected in case you get into another accident.

How Driving Unrestrained Could Affect Your Claim for Compensation After Your Car Crash?

You will still be entitled to compensation if you get into a car accident without wearing a seat belt. Although, depending on the severity of the injuries received due to not wearing a seat belt, the compensation amount may be lower than expected. 

Common Seat Belt Myths

Even though a seat belt can keep you safe and save your life in an accident, most people remain oblivious to its benefits. It’s estimated that seat belts have saved over 375,000 lives in accidents since 1975, but people today still have an excuse for not wearing one. That is partly due to some seat belt myths that have developed over time. We will look at the most common myths about seat belts and debunk them here for you. 

The safest way to ride in a vehicle is to wear a seat belt, even if your car has airbags. The impact of an airbag deploying without a seatbelt can cause serious injuries like broken ribs and fractured bones. It may even be deadly. By buckling up, you can avoid these injuries. Moreover, you won’t get injected from your car or crash into other passengers or the vehicle’s interior.

Accidents involving water or fire account for only 0.5% of all accidents. However, note that you won’t be able to deal with these dangerous situations if you’re unconscious. Wearing a seat belt improves your chances of staying conscious and getting out of a submerged vehicle or fire situation. 

According to seat belt injury statistics, drivers and passengers in pickups, vans, and SUVs are 60% less likely to get injured in an accident when they are wearing a seat belt.

The most routine trips can turn into the most dangerous ones. Studies have found that most fatal crashes occur at speeds of less than 40 miles per hour and within 25 miles from home. Therefore, you need to wear a seat belt no matter how fast you’re driving and where you’re going. 

If you wear your seat belt properly, the chances of you getting injured by a seatbelt are slim. Even if you get some injuries, they will definitely be just some surface bruises and much less severe than those you could have gotten without wearing the belt. It has been consistently proved that injuries in most serious car accidents could have been much worse if not for the seatbelt. 

Young men are most likely not to wear a seat belt when driving and tend to get seriously injured or killed in accidents. In 2017, 60% of male occupants aged between 18 to 34 were killed in fatal crashes because of not wearing a seat belt. (NHTSA)

In Conclusion

The best prevention of fatal car crashes is to encourage using seat belts when driving. Since their invention, they have saved millions of lives, and with the national seat belt use figures climbing to 90.3% in 2020, things are looking up.

Car accidents can happen anytime and anywhere. Even the most careful drivers who never drive above the speed limit might get into an accident due to weather conditions or the irresponsibility of other drivers on the road.

You can’t control some factors, but one thing is sure — always buckle up properly to avoid the severe consequences of not wearing a seat belt. 


What Are the Main Functions of a Seat Belt?

Let’s look at the five benefits of wearing a seatbelt.  Seatbelts:

Can a Person Share a Seat Belt?

No. It’s not recommended to share a seat belt because a single seat belt is only designed to restrain one person. If you share a seat belt, you risk both occupants getting killed or seriously injured in an accident. Small children who share a seat belt when riding on an adult’s lap are at particular risk. They could be crushed between the adult and the seat belt in an accident. 

How Can I Ensure My Seat Belt Provides Maximum Protection?

You must always ensure that the seat belt is firmly adjusted. An improperly adjusted seat belt won’t keep the occupant secure and will increase the risk of head contact with other parts of the vehicle’s interior. In an accident, the occupant may also experience intense seat belt loads when the seatbelt pulls against their body.  You should also adjust the seat belt so that the lap portion is placed across your hips’ bony section, and the sash goes across your mid-shoulder and chest.  As you’ve already learned in our seat belt death statistics, serious injuries are often caused by the lack of a seat belt or its improper use. So, make sure you buckle up properly!

Should a Seat Belt Be Worn During Pregnancy?

Yes, it is recommended by doctors. Wearing a seat belt during pregnancy remains the most effective way to protect your unborn child and yourself if you get into a car accident. The best way for pregnant women to wear a seat belt is to place the belt’s lap part as low as possible.

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