Maryland Seat Belt Usage

The CDC reports that Maryland is 9th in the nation in the percentage of people who report they always wear a seat belt. Oregon is first, which is surprising because the study also found that seat belt use among rural drivers is much lower than usage in urban and suburban areas. So whatever Oregon is doing, we should be copying them.

Ninth is not bad. But why can’t Maryland be first? Couldn’t someone start some sort of campaign? Nothing like competition to bring about the best results. The fact that seat belts reduce car accident deaths is underscored by this study: seat belts reduce the risk of death in car accidents by 45-50%.

Wearing a seat belt may become more and more important if oil prices continue to rise. Oil prices so far have not led Americans to buy more fuel-efficient but less safe vehicles. Oil is now at $93 a barrel. If it goes to $150, as some have predicted, we will see $5 to $6 per gallon at the pump and it will cause people to buy smaller cars. If cars will get smaller, they need to build safer small cars and we need to improve our driving habits or the recent improvements in the number of car crash fatalities will diminish.

Another interesting finding from the study is that seat belt compliance is significantly higher among women, older drivers, and Hispanics.

Maryland Seatbelt Statistics

  • Maryland seatbelt use was 3 percent in 2018. This was nearly a 2 percent decrease from 2017 (92.1 percent).
  • Over 75 percent of unbelted occupant injuries and fatalities occurred in the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas.
  • 1 percent of individuals killed in auto accidents in Maryland were unbelted. This is lower than the national average (46.7 percent).
  • According to the 2019 Roadside Observation Seat Belt Survey, 93 percent of passengers wore their seatbelt when their driver wore theirs. 40 percent wore theirs when their driver was unbelted.

National Seatbelt Statistics

  • 7 percent of individuals reported wearing their seatbelt in 2019. This is a 1.1 percent increase from 2018 (89.6 percent).
  • 92 percent of individuals in primary law states, which are states where one can be pulled over for just not wearing their seatbelt, wore their seatbelt. In non-primary law states, 86.2 percent wore their seatbelt.
  • 1 percent of vehicle occupants in rural areas wore their seatbelt compared to 89.4 percent of vehicle occupants in urban areas.
  • Over half of teens and adults 18-44 who died in car accidents were unbelted.
  • An NHTSA study found that seatbelts saved over 325,000 lives between 1960 and 2012.
  • In 2016, 262 children between ages 8 and 12 died in car accidents. Nearly half did not wear their seatbelt.
  • Baltimore Sun blog post on this story

Under Maryland Law, Who Has to Wear a Seat Belt?

Who must wear a seat belt under Maryland law:

  1. Drivers: All drivers of motor vehicles in Maryland must wear seat belts.
  2. Front Seat Passengers: All passengers riding in the front seat of a motor vehicle, regardless of age, must wear seat belts.
  3. Rear Seat Passengers: All passengers under the age of 16 must wear seat belts while riding in the rear seats of a motor vehicle. Passengers who are 16 years old and older are not required to wear seat belts in the rear seats of the vehicle.