Missouri has hit an all-time high rate for seat belt use, but they still have a way to go before they catch Illinois or the rest of the U.S.
The Missouri Department of Transportation released its annual statistics on seat belt use, showing that 84 percent of drivers buckled up in 2017. That’s an increase from last year’s total of 81.4 percent, but still significantly behind the national average of 90.1 percent.
However, Illinois is way ahead, with 93 percent of drivers buckled up as of 2016, the most recent year for which statistics were available from the Illinois Department of Transportation. Like Missouri, Illinois has seen seat belt use rise each year since 1985, when the safety belt law was passed.
Before the law, only 15.9 percent of drivers used seat belts, according to IDOT. The next year it jumped to 36.2 percent, and has slowly grown over the years until it passed 70 percent in 2000 and now hovers in the low 90s — 2016’s 93 percent was actually a slight drop from the all-time high of 95.2 percent in 2015.
“With over 90 percent of traffic crashes attributed to human error, we know that most are preventable. However, a seat belt is your best defense in a vehicle crash,” said Bill Whitfield, chair of the executive committee of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety. “Pay attention, buckle up, and never drive distracted or impaired.”
According to the Missouri study, passengers in cars, SUVs and minivans had a higher rate of seat belt use, while pickup truck drivers and passengers had the lowest usage rate at less than 70 percent.
Teenage seat belt usage is up to 70.4 percent, and more women than men tend to wear their seat belts. More people tend to use seat belts on the highways than on residential streets, according to IDOT.
Illinois seat belt laws are primary, which means police can pull a car over solely for seat belt violations. In 15 states, including Missouri, seat belt citations can only be given if the driver has been pulled over for another infraction.
More than 46,735 Illinois drivers were convicted of not wearing seat belts in 2014, the most recent year available from the Illinois Secretary of State. Another 3,799 were convicted of not properly restraining their children.
According to the Secretary of State, a shoulder belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to passengers in the front seat by 45 percent, and child safety seats reduce the risk for infants by 71 percent.