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Study Examines Teen Seat Belt Use

July 14, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Seat belts saved the lives of 4,305 teenage drivers involved in fatal accidents from 1995 to 2000, an advocacy group estimated in a report Sunday.

The group found that seat belts were used by 36 percent of all fatally injured teenage drivers and 23 percent of all fatally injured teenage passengers.

Had that rate been 80 percent, an estimated 6,812 teenage drivers who were killed would have survived, said the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, which supports stronger restraint laws.

The study also found that 47 percent of 16- to 19-year-old victims were wearing seat belts in crashes that occurred in states with so-called primary laws, under which police can pull over drivers for not being buckled up. Only 30 percent of victims wore belts in states where police can ticket drivers only if they are pulled over for a separate violation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration observed in autumn 2000 that overall seat belt use in primary states was 77 percent, compared with 64 percent in other states. The agency’s study did not break down statistics by age or estimate belt use among teen drivers.

The Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign study found that belt use was 36 percent among all fatally injured teenage drivers and 23 percent among all fatally injured teenage passengers.

If belt use had been 80 percent, it estimated 6,812 teen drivers who were killed would have survived.

Traffic crashes are responsible for 38 percent of deaths for 15- to 19-year-olds. Teen drivers have a higher crash risk than any other age group in the United States, whether measured by miles driven or population.

In 2000, the latest year of complete federal statistics, 4,698 teens aged 16 to 19 died in a traffic crash. Eleven percent of drivers and 16 percent of passengers killed that year were teenagers.

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On the Net: Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign: http://www.nsc.org/airbag.htm

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