Teen Driver Safety: Seat Belt Use

By: Staff Writer July 6, 2012
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The facts don't talk, they shout:

  • Out of any driving demographic, teen drivers are the least likely to buckle up. This despite having the highest accident rate out of any other driving demographic per 100,000 drivers.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year olds in the United States. The majority of these deaths involve unbuckled teens, drivers, and passengers.
  • Use of a seat belt is the single most effective means of reducing fatal and non-fatal injuries in motor vehicle accidents.
  • When employed, seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45%.

Yet, despite these alarming statistics, teens continue to ignore the grim facts after they get a driver's license or driver's permit. According to a research poll taken by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teens cited seat belts as being "potentially harmful" as their main reason not wearing them.

To improve awareness, all states across the country have been ramping up seat belt laws.

Seat Belt Safety Laws Aimed at Teen Drivers

To date:

  • There are 32 states, including the District of Columbia, have primary seat belt laws. This means law enforcement can pull you over for not wearing a seat belt. The fines vary, ranging from $10 in Wisconsin to $120 in Connecticut.
  • There are 17 states have secondary seat belt laws. This means law enforcement cannot specifically pull you over for being unbuckled. There must be another reason (broken headlight, speeding, etc., etc.) before you can be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. Some of these states, however, make it a primary offense for teen drivers. The fines for secondary offenses range from $10 in Arizona to $71 in Colorado.
  • In some states, a primary or secondary offense is determined by whether an unbuckled passenger is sitting in the front seat or back seat.
  • New Hampshire is the lone state without a seat belt law for teens.

Seat belt laws prove effective. According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) teens who reside in states with primary seat belt laws are 12% more likely to buckle up when driving, and 15% more likely when riding as passengers.

To learn more about the teen seat belt use in your state, check out our page on safety laws.

What kind of seatbelt laws does your state have? Do you willingly abide by them?

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