The number of adult American drivers who wear seat belts has increased in recent years, a study says.

01/05/2011 11:08 AM

01/05/2011 11:10 AM

The percentage of adult Americans using a seat belt has increased in recent years, but the results could be better, according to a study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2002 and 2008, the percentage of adults using a seat belt rose from 80 percent to 85 percent, the study found. However, one in seven adult drivers reported not using a seat belt on every trip.

The consequences: Millions of Americans are being injured in car crashes because of the lack of protection from a seat belt.

In 2009, about 12,000 more injuries would have been prevented and about 450 more lives saved if all states had a primary enforcement seat belt law, according to the study.

The study also found that in 2009 more than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency rooms from crashes. Adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are almost 10 percent less likely to wear a seat belt than adults 35 or older.

Seat belts reduce the risk for fatal injuries by about 45 percent, and serious injuries by about 50 percent, the study said.

In 2002, primary seat belt laws existed in 18 states, three territories and the District of Columbia, according to the study. These laws covered about 53 percent of the country’s adult population.

Five years later, progress was seen in enforcement laws. In 2008, the number of states with existing seat belt laws went up to 26, according to the study.

California has a primary law, and a 93.2 percent rate of self-reported seat belt use, the study found. Oregon had the highest rate of 94 percent, while the lowest rate of 59 percent was found in North Dakota.

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