40+ Seat Belt Statistics and Safety Guide
The modern seat belt has saved millions of lives since its creation in 1959. Considered one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, the three-point seat belt was developed by a Volvo engineer to reduce traffic deaths from ejection. In an effort to save as many lives as possible, Volvo decided to share the patent with the world rather than charge expensive license fees. Below, we’ve gathered a list of seat belt statistics and facts, including a brief overview of its history and state laws in effect today.
We also discuss the gender gap in seat belt testing and how future car technology aims to enhance occupancy safety even further. Seat belt usage reduces the risk of injury or death in a crash by nearly 50%, making our roads safer for everyone. If you are involved in an auto accident, consider speaking with an experienced professional to learn about your rights.
Seat Belt Safety Facts
Nationwide, 9 in 10 front seat riders buckle up today. The statistics below dive into the seat belt’s effectiveness and how many lives are saved because of the safety invention.
Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to protect yourself during a vehicle crash.
Seat belts are the most effective and most cost effective public safety measure.
Three out of five people in car accidents could survive if they were wearing seat belts.
Roughly 15,000 lives are saved every year by seat belt usage.
The national average for seat belt use is at 90.7%.
Seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% and cut the injury risk by 50% for drivers and front-seat passengers.
Occupants in pickup trucks are the least likely to wear seat belts.
More than 3 out of 4 people ejected from a vehicle die from their injuries.
In 2017, an estimated 14,955 lives were saved by seat belts.
Rear seat belts are less effective than front seat ones, being 25% effective at preventing fatal injuries compared to front seat belts 45% effectiveness.
Teens and young adults have the lowest seat belt use rates.
Unrestrained deaths are more likely to happen at night.
Nearly half of passengers killed in car accidents aren’t buckled up.
People are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash if they’re not wearing a seat belt.
People are more likely to wear a seat belt when driving through unclear weather conditions.
During a 40 year period from 1987 to 2017, frontal air bags saved 50,457 lives.
Passengers 21-34 are most likely to die if unrestrained during a vehicle crash.
The History of Seat Belts
While lap belts have been around since the 1800s, they weren’t effective or widespread until Nils Bohlin’s three-point safety belt invention in 1959.
The Volvo engineer set out and succeeded in designing a belt that keeps both the upper and lower body in place and is so simple to use that even a child could do it. Rather than charge expensive licensing fees for the patented technology, Volvo shared the creation with the world and saved over a million lives in 60 years. Here’s a closer look at the history of seat belts.
The first seat belt was created in the late 1800’s for air gliders.
Doctors began equipping their cars with lap belts in the 1930s.
The introduction of the airbag caused a decline in seat belt usage in the 1980s and 1990s.
Wisconsin was the first state to require seat belts in the front seat in 1961 and New York followed suit the same year.
Early seat belts used nylon webbing but today polyester is used due to its higher stiffness and lower extensibility.
Volvo patented the modern day seat belt in 1959 and was the first automobile company to integrate seatbelts into their entire vehicle fleet.
The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 required seat belts to be installed on all new American vehicles from the 1968 model onwards.
The first patented vehicular seat belt was invented to keep tourists safe in New York City taxis in 1885.
In 2001, the U.S. federal government launched the Click it or Ticket campaign. This helped increase seat belt usage by 7% in 6 years.
Seat Belt Gender Bias
Gendered crash dummies are partly to blame, as the 50th percentile man measurements are still predominantly used today in auto safety testing.
While female crash dummies were created in 2011, the design was based on the smallest 5% of women from the 1970s, meaning it’s not reflective of average women’s measurements today. Further, female crash dummies aren’t used in the driver seat. Read on for a closer look at how seat belts are tested and how gender bias leads men to be more protected.
Women are more likely to buckle up but still more likely to be injured in a car accident.
The female crash dummy used today is just a scaled down version of the male dummy and it still doesn’t ride in the driver’s seat.
Conventional seat belts put pregnant women at greater risk.
A woman is 47% more likely to be seriously injured than a man in a car crash and 17% more likely to die.
In addition to women, obese and elderly people aren’t fairly represented in crash dummy models today.
Crash dummies used today are based on the average American man from the 1970s and the smallest 5% of American women from the 1970s.
Still today, there are no crash dummies that represent the average female in the U.S.
Females are more likely to suffer whiplash but vehicle seats designed to help with whiplash are optimized for males.
Volvo passed an initiative in 2019 demanding virtual models and physical dummies begin representing a greater variety of body types.
Seat Belt Laws
Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement to ticket a driver for not wearing a seat belt, whereas secondary laws only allow the ticket to be issued if another traffic offense is also cited. Here’s a closer look at U.S. seat belt laws across states.
In Wyoming, the state rewards drivers for seat belt use by reducing the fines for other traffic violations by $10.
Delaware’s seat belt law is a civil penalty.
34 U.S. states have primary enforcement laws for seat belt use.
Teenage drivers are 15% less likely to wear a seat belt in states with a secondary safety belt law.
New Hampshire is the only state to not have a primary or secondary seat belt law for adults.
Future Car Safety Upgrades
Advancements in technology are paving the way for smart safety features and connected cars. Here are some of the high-tech gadgets and upgrades that may be in your next vehicle, including a reimagined safety belt that could change how we buckle up forever.
The company who invented the modern day seatbelt may also be the first to replace it. Volvo unveiled plans for their self-driving cars that include a safety blanket to restrain passengers as they lounge.
This reimagination of the seat belt is a system of loosely attached straps that tighten and restrain passengers on sudden impact. In a fully autonomous vehicle, this would allow the rider to lay down and watch a movie or take a nap during the drive, while still being protected in the event of a crash.
When a car outfitted with smart sensors is alerted that a crash is imminent, external airbags will deploy to disperse the forces of impact. These airbags, which have been developed by ZF Friedrichshafen AG over the last 10 years, could reduce injury levels by 20-30%.
Facial recognition technology and mobile fingerprint are just some of the ways biometric data will enhance future vehicle technology. Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D) can gather data on the physical and emotional state of occupants in real time and then optimizations for passenger comfort, such as changes to the interior, can be made instantaneously.
Shared Autonomous Vehicles
Self-driving cars are already in test pilot, and the rollout of 5G will make the technology safer and more reliable. While never having to fully operate a vehicle is one perk of autonomous cars, shared rides could shake up car ownership even more. Since vehicles go unused 80% of the time, self-driving technology paves the way for people to co-own cars.
Tires that can’t go flat may be headed your way soon. These non-pneumatic tires will feature a sustainable and long-lasting design and render spare tires obsolete. The tire design will also reduce CO2 emissions by simplifying the structure of the tire.
Augmented Reality Infotainment Systems
Today, enhanced infotainment has caused an uptick in distracted driving. Yet AR-enabled displays have the potential to actually increase safety instead. 3D AR would employ sensor data to gather road conditions and surrounding vehicle information. AR can also enhance current safety features such as lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and automated cruise control.