Nighttime Seat Belt Use to Prevent Car Accident Injuries

Safety Campaign to Encourage Drivers and Passengers to Wear Seat Belts at Night

When is the most dangerous time to drive? According to a news release from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the “nighttime passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate is about three times higher than the daytime rate.” In other words, more people sustain deadly car accident injuries at night than during the daytime hours. As such, NHTSA has made nighttime traffic safety a priority. What is it doing to prevent fatal traffic collisions after dark? One of the key elements of its projects is to increase nighttime seat belt use.

Currently, data suggests that fewer vehicle occupants wear seat belts at night, and this statistic appears to be tied to the fact that more of these passengers sustain deadly injuries in car accidents. The worst time of night for seat belt use is between 12:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. NHTSA believes that “increasing seat belt usage among occupants traveling at night could substantially lessen injury and fatality rates.”

What is NHTSA doing to encourage drivers and vehicle occupants to buckle up? Its programs are varied, as evidenced by a report on community initiatives. One of the primary steps for increasing nighttime seat belt use involves engaging with local law enforcement officials to conduct seat belt enforcement initiatives. For example, “Click It or Ticket” programs have been put into place in communities across the country. And according to the report, when seat belt enforcement programs involve checkpoint-style enforcement, they do actually increase the rate of nighttime seat belt use.

Depending on the state in which these programs take place, law enforcement officials may be limited in their ticketing capacities for the failure to wear a seat belt. To be sure, some states are primary enforcement states (meaning that you can be stopped and ticketed for the sole offense of failing to wear a seat belt), while other states are secondary enforcement states (meaning that you can only be ticketed for failing to wear a seat belt if you were first stopped for another traffic offense). Both New York and New Jersey, for example, are primary enforcement states.

Seat Belt Facts and Figures

Who is at greatest risk of not wearing a seat belt? What are the ultimate safety impacts of seat belt use? A fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following statistics:

  • Seat belts, when worn properly, reduce car accident injuries and deaths by around 50%.
  • Air bags alone are not enough to prevent serious injuries in the event that a driver or passenger is not wearing a seat belt.
  • More than half of all teen drivers (about 55%) who died in car accidents in 2012 were not wearing seat belts.
  • Adults between the ages of 18-34 are less likely to wear a seat belt than are older drivers or passengers.
  • Urban and suburban vehicle occupants are more likely than rural occupants to wear a seat belt.
  • Seat belt usage in states that only have secondary enforcement laws (about 80% of occupants wear seat belts) is lower than in states with primary enforcement laws (where nearly 90% of occupants wear seat belts).

Stay safe- always wear your seat belt and encourage others to do the same!

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