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Volume 11: A Guide for Increasing Seat Belt Use

Seat Belts Could Save 7,000 More Lives Each Year

It is well documented that seat belts prevent death and reduce serious injury. Today they save an estimated 13,000 lives each year. Because safety belts are highly effective, getting the "unbelted" to use the restraints could save another 7,000 people annually.

The easy converts to restraints are already buckling up. Seat belt use in the United States in 2007 was estimated by NHTSA at 82 percent, with use rates ranging from 78 percent in the northeast to 93 percent in the west.

Today's challenge is to increase restraint use among those who have not yet accepted educational or enforcement messages…and the reality that seat belts save lives.  Data show that 58 percent of people who die in crashes are not belted.

The single most effective strategy for improving occupant restraint use rates is enactment of seat belt use primary enforcement laws in all states. Seat belt use laws by themselves are not sufficient, nor are public education efforts without an enforcement component generally successful.

Another significant challenge is assuring the proper use of child restraints. Although use rates exceed 90 percent, in 6 out of 10 cases the restraints are improperly secured to the vehicle or the child is improperly secured in the restraint. One study showed 85 percent misuse.


  • Maximize use of occupant restraints by all vehicle occupants.
  • Ensure that restraints, especially child and infant restraints, are properly used.
  • Provide access to appropriate information, materials and guidelines for those implementing programs to increase occupant restraint use.

Download this guide: http://trb.org/publications/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_500v11.pdf

Increasing Seat Belt Use

Recognizing that a combination of enforcement and public information campaigns appear to be the key to achieving meaningful, lasting increases in restraint use, this guide focuses on strategies that enable primarily local and regional entities, as well as entire states, to implement programs to increase use of restraints and to assure that those systems are properly used.

Download the guide in PDF

View the Guide and Appendices in HTML

Order a printed copy

Related publications

Safety Belts One Pager

Self Assessment Tool

Integrated Safety Management Process