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Friday, December 08, 2006

Seat Belt Use Down Slightly in 2006

U.S. DOT Releases 2006 Seat Belt and Motorcycle Helmet Use Statistics

According to a new study recently released by the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), seat belt use in the U.S. is currently at a rate of 81 percent, down slightly from the use rate of 82 percent in 2005.

Citing the new data, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters said that to reduce rising fatality numbers on America’s highways, more Americans must take steps to protect themselves.

"A seat belt can't work if it isn't on," Secretary Peters said. "Whatever it takes, we all need to do a better job making sure everyone chooses to buckle up."

In the Western United States, belt use rose from 85 percent to 90 percent between 2005 and 2006; and it climbed from 82 to 83 percent in the South. Conversely, in the Northeast, belt use dropped from 78 percent to 74 percent, and in the Midwest it fell from 79 percent to 77 percent.

Secretary Peters pointed out that states are cooperating with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to promote seat belt use. The DOT provided more than $123 million in 2006 incentive grants to states with primary seat belt laws. The DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also directs the national Click It or Ticket law enforcement campaigns, mustering thousands of police departments across the U.S. to work hard to enforce state belt laws.

The Secretary noted the latest new data also shows that 51 percent of U.S. motorcyclists now wear helmets, up from 48 percent in 2005. She pointed out that in the West, motorcycle helmet use rose from 50 to 72 percent between 2005 and 2006; and from 42 to 47 percent in the Northeast. However, the use rate fell from 53 to 50 percent in the Midwest and from 49 to 45 percent in the South. Only helmets those that comply with DOT standards were included in the survey.

"All across America, every single day, helmets save lives," said Nicole R. Nason, the NHTSA administrator.

According to Administrator Nason, the NHTSA recently started offering federal grants to states for programs that help reduce the number of motorcyclist accidents. For example, this year the agency will make available $6 million in grant funding to states for motorcycle safety training and motorist awareness programs. The agency will not only create a public service announcement to promote helmet use, but also create a consumer video for its website to detail how to choose a safe and sure-fitting motorcycle helmet.

Driver education helps increase driving safety awareness and ensures the well being of American drivers. The National Safety Commission recommends The Driver Education Handbook for Parents as a valuable teaching tool for parents who are concerned with their teen's driving safety and understand the value of quality instruction.

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