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.
- Baltimore Sun blog post on this story