Staff Report

In 2014, 21,022 motor vehicle passengers lost their lives. Tragically some of these deaths could have been prevented if the passenger had been wearing a seat belt. Seat belts save lives. Yet, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research found  nearly on in five drivers report having driven without wearing their seat belt in the past 30 days; nearly one-fifth report doing this more than once, and more than 1 in 20 report driving without a seat belt fairly often or regularly.

This behavior happens despite the fact that most drivers (88.2 percent) view it as unacceptable to drive without wearing a seat belt, and more than four in five (81.9 percent) say that they never do. The “do as I say, not as I do,” behavior is all too common when it comes to traffic safety.

Seat belt use has been increasing nationwide (87 percent), but there remains a wide gap (9 percent) between front seat belt use and rear seat belt use. Rear seat passengers are three times more likely to die in a crash if they are unbuckled, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Currently 28 states have seat belt laws covering all passengers. Florida is not one of those states. In fact, Florida ranks second in the nation in unrestrained passenger fatalities, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

“Unfortunately many passengers will not change their behavior unless there is a legal consequence,” said Karen Morgan, Public Policy Manager, The Auto Club Group (AAA). “Because of this attitude, the easiest and most cost effective way to save lives and prevent injuries is to improve the current seat belt law to cover all vehicle occupants.”

Nationally, seat belt use by adult rear seat passengers is only 78 percent, compared to 87 percent for the front seat passenger. The discrepancy is even more pronounced in motor vehicle crashes involving a fatality: 60 percent rear belt use versus 74 front belt use. It is estimated from 1975 to 2014 seat belts have saved 330,507 lives nationwide. If all passengers had worn a seat belt during those years, a total of 709,489, or an additional 378,983 lives could have been saved, according to NHTSA.

Visit for the full Traffic Safety Culture Index report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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