Buckling up is one of the most secure decisions that drivers and passengers can make. Many Americans recognize the lifesaving value of seat belts; in 2022, the national use rate was 91.6%. Seat belt use in
passenger vehicles is estimated to have saved 14,955 lives in 2017. Learn about the potentially fatal consequences of not wearing a seat belt and what you can do to ensure that you and your family are always properly buckled up.
What’s the Issue?
In the first three decades of an American’s life, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death. Over 33,000 people were killed and 2.2 million were injured in crashes in 2009 alone, with more than 70% of these occurring in passenger vehicles and trucks.
More than half of those killed in car accidents were not restrained at the time of the accident. Wearing a seat belt is the most effective way to avoid death and serious injury in the event of a collision.
The use of seat belts is increasing. Seat belt use has increased from 11% in 1981 to nearly 85% in 2010, saving hundreds of thousands of lives as a result of laws, education, and technology. Despite this, approximately one in every seven people fails to buckle up.
There are policies that have been shown to increase seat belt use and save lives.
In 2020, 51% of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants killed were not wearing seat belts, a 4% increase from 2019.
In 2017, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives and could have saved an additional 2,549 lives if they had been worn.
The consequences of failing to wear or improperly wearing a seat belt are obvious:
1. Buckling up keeps you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas failing to buckle up can result in being completely ejected from the vehicle in a crash, which is almost always fatal.
2. Air bags are insufficient to protect you; in fact, if you are not buckled up, the force of an air bag can seriously injure or even kill you.
- Improper seat belt use, such as putting the strap below your arm, puts you and your children at risk in the event of a crash.
The advantages of buckled up are equally obvious:
1. By wearing a seat belt in the front seat of a passenger vehicle, you can reduce your risk of:
- 45% fewer deaths (Kahane, 2015)
- 50% of moderate to critical injury
2. If you wear your seat belt in a light truck, you can reduce your chances of:
- 60% fewer deaths Khane (2015)
- By 65%, moderate to critical injury (NHTSA, 1984)
Seat Belt Safety for Adults
Follow these seat belt guidelines and tips, including dos and don’ts when pregnant. Then test your seat belt IQ by quizzing yourself on the myths and facts of buckling up.
5 facts about buckling up:
1. The single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash is to buckle up.
- Seat belts are the best line of defense against drunk, aggressive, or distracted drivers. Being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle during a crash; being completely ejected from a vehicle is almost always fatal.
- Air bags are intended to supplement, not replace, seat belts.
- If you don’t wear your seat belt, you could be thrown into a frontal air bag that opens quickly. Such force has the potential to injure or even kill you. Learn about the importance of air bag safety.
3. Instructions for buckling up safely
- The lap and shoulder belts are fastened across the pelvis and rib cage, which are more resistant to crash forces than other parts of your body.
- Wear the shoulder belt across your chest and away from your neck.
- The lap belt is worn across your hips rather than your stomach.
- NEVER wear the shoulder belt behind your back or under one of your arms.
4. Fit matters
- Before you buy a new car, make sure the seat belts fit you properly.
- Inquire with your dealer about seat belt adjusters, which can assist you in getting the best fit.
- Seat belt extenders are available from your vehicle’s manufacturer if you require a wider belt.
- If you drive an older or classic car that only has lap belts, check with the manufacturer about how to retrofit it with today’s safer lap/shoulder belts.
5. Child and pregnant woman seat belt safety
- Learn about seat belt safety while pregnant and when your child is ready to use an adult seat belt.
Seat Belt Safety for Tweens
When Is My Child Ready for an Adult Seat Belt?
When your child is between the ages of 8 and 12, it is usually time to transition him or her from a booster seat to a seat belt. Keep your children in booster seats until they outgrow the size limits of the seats or are tall enough to wear seat belts properly.
Fitting a Child Correctly in a Seat Belt
To properly fit in a seat belt, your child must be tall enough to sit without slouching and able to:
- Maintain a firm grip on the vehicle seat.
- Maintain a natural bend in his or her knees over the edge of the vehicle seat.
- Maintain a flat foot on the floor.
- The lap belt should fit snugly across the upper thighs rather than the stomach.
- The shoulder belt should be worn snugly across the shoulder and chest, not crossing the neck or face.
- Never allow a child to wear the shoulder belt under an arm or behind the back, as this could result in severe injuries in the event of a crash.
- Keep your child in the back seat because he or she will be safer there.
Always double-check your child’s belt fit in every vehicle. Some vehicles may require a booster seat while others do not. If your child’s seat belt does not yet fit properly, he or she should continue to use a booster seat.
Modeling Seat Belt Safety
When it comes to modeling safe driving practices, including buckling up every time you get in the car, you are your children’s strongest influence. Teach your children that everyone in the car, including the driver, is responsible for their own safety.
Enforcing seat belt safety may become more difficult as your child grows. A parent’s life is full of compromises, but seat belt safety is never one of them. Follow these tips and set a good example by buckling up every time you get into your car. Also, never give up until they buckle up!
NOTE: For maximum safety, all children under the age of 13 must ride in the back seat.
You’re the #1 Influence: Make Sure Your Tween is Properly Buckled Up the Whole Ride, Every Time
Seat Belt Safety Starts with Good Role Models
The importance of wearing a seat belt begins with a good role model, which is you. You, as a parent or caregiver, have the greatest influence on your child’s seat belt safety. According to research, children who see their parents buckle up are much more likely to buckle up themselves.
Consistency is Key
Remind your children to buckle up properly throughout the ride, and never assume they are buckled up! Learn how to motivate your tweens to buckle up, and make it a family rule that everyone adheres to the same practices as you: Always buckle up before moving the car, no matter how short or routine the trip, and ensure that all children are properly buckled up.
The Proper Seat Belt Fit for Your Child
When child passengers’ seat belts are loose and/or improperly positioned, the risk of injury increases significantly. Learn how to properly fit your child’s seat belt and why your children may not be wearing their seat belts correctly.
Front or Back—When is the Front Seat Safe for My Child?
To ensure their safety, all children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat. The back seat is the safest place for your children because most car accidents happen in the front, and the back seat is farthest away from the impact.
Why Parents and Caregivers Forget About or Forego Seat Belt Safety
We know that life as a parent is full of distractions and often hectic, making it easy to forget or skip buckling up entirely. If any of these reasons for not buckling up sound familiar, do whatever it takes to buckle up and make sure your children do as well:
- Pre-travel routines that are rushed and chaotic.
- Need to reduce conflict or maintain peace.
- When in a hurry, seat belt discomfort or perceived annoyance
- Shorter distances, slower speeds, and well-known roads are incorrectly associated with lower risk.
- Children who insist on riding in the front seat
Tips to Motivate Your Tweens to Buckle Up
It can be a battle of wills to get your children to properly buckle up and stay buckled. There are a variety of reasons why children aged 8 to 14 may forget or refuse to wear their seat belts. We’ve got tips to help you motivate your kids to buckle up for as many reasons as they can object to wearing a seat belt.
Tweens go through several developmental stages, including social, cognitive, and emotional, which provide useful insights into what makes sense to them and motivates them. Learn about the developmental stages and motivational messages to get your kids to buckle up properly every time, for the duration of the ride.
It’s Non-Negotiable: Tween Seat Belt Safety
We know you go to great lengths to keep your children safe. Parenting, on the other hand, can be a demanding job. The daily routine of getting your children to and from school and other activities can be hurried and chaotic, creating an environment in which insisting on wearing a seat belt is not high on the priority list. Check out these five obstacles to getting tweens to wear — and stay in — seat belts.
Do Not Negotiate, No Matter How Hurried or Chaotic!
As a parent, you must sometimes let your children have their way. However, their safety should never be negotiated, no matter how much they argue that seat belts are uncomfortable or unnecessary for a “short drive.” Here are some pointers to help you win the seat belt fight:
- Consistently demonstrate seat belt safety. Teaching your children to consistently wear seat belts can be difficult. As the primary influence on your children, your first line of defense is to wear your seat belt and insist that all family members do the same.
- Never give up until they get their act together. Make sure your children are properly buckled with their lap and shoulder belts—no shoulder belts behind their backs or under their arms, and no seat belts that are too loose for them to wrestle in the back seat. Learn how to use age-appropriate messages and rewards to encourage your children to wear their seat belts correctly and consistently.
- Never Assume Your Children Are Seat belted. One conversation is insufficient: Remind your children to wear their seat belts every time they get into a car, regardless of who is driving, and to stay always buckled up, including at night and on longer rides.
It’s been a long time since your children graduated from a booster seat to an adult seat belt, and they’re now teenagers. Do you think it’s time to unwind? Consider again. Most teens killed in car accidents are not wearing seat belts.
Buckling up is a continuous conversation, not a one-time event. Set a good example by always wearing your seat belt and remind your teens that it is the law to do so.
Every trip, every time, no matter where you’re sitting in a vehicle, including the back seat, it’s critical to buckle up.
In 2020, nearly 60% of back seat passengers killed in car accidents were unbuckled (based on known seat belt use).
Keep the following tips in mind whenever you or others ride in the back seat of a vehicle to stay safe:
- Buckling up keeps you safe and secure in a vehicle. Ejected from a vehicle is almost always fatal.
- Buckle your seat belt in all modes of road transportation, including taxis, limousines, and rideshares.
Tips for properly positioning your seat belt:
- Place the lap belt across your hips, just below your stomach. The shoulder belt should be worn across your chest and away from your neck.
- To prevent the shoulder belt from resting on your neck, adjust the seat belt height on the side of the vehicle.
Place children in the appropriate seat for their age and size. All children under the age of thirteen should ride in the back seat.
Seat belts keep you safe inside a vehicle and have been shown to save lives. Even in the back seat, wearing a seat belt keeps you safer and increases your chances of survival in the event of a crash.