More Click It with Threat of a Ticket; 81% Wear Seat Belts in U.S.; Higher Usage Where Buckling Up Is Law

Article excerpt

Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Fewer Americans are wearing seat belts compared with last year, but usage continues to be higher in states where motorists can be pulled over solely because they are not wearing a safety belt, a new federal study shows.

Seat-belt use climbed from 58 percent in 1994 to 81 percent this year. It reached an all-time high in 2005 at 82 percent, according to a report released last week by the Department of Transportation.

"A seat belt doesn't work if it isn't on," Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said in announcing the findings. "Whatever it takes, we all need to do a better job making sure everyone chooses to buckle up" to help reduce rising highway fatalities.

The study gave Western states the highest marks, with usage in that region increasing from 85 percent to 90 percent in the past year.

Seat-belt use in the South edged up from 82 percent in 2005 to 83 percent this year. But it fell from 78 percent to 74 percent in the Northeast and from 79 percent to 77 percent in the Midwest during the same 12-month period, the report showed.

Data released in August by the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that 43,443 persons died in traffic accidents in the United States in 2005. It was the highest level in 15 years and 1.4 percent ahead of 2004, according to NHTSA.

Maryland is one of 24 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have so-called primary-prevention seat-belt laws, which allows drivers to be pulled over and ticketed solely because they are not wearing a safety belt. …