Seatbelt use at record high in U.S., report says

Southern states show greatest gains

Posted: November 15, 2012 at 1:45 p.m.

More people across the United States are buckling up, especially in the South, according to a report released Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The report states that nationwide seatbelt use has reached a record high of 86 percent in 2012, up 2 percentage points from 2011. The greatest increase was seen in Southern states, which were up 5 percentage points this year over 2011's usage rate of 80 percent.

The American Automobile Association predicts that 90 percent, or 39.1 million, of Thanksgiving travelers will travel by roads this year. That number is up 0.6 percent from 2011, according to figures released by AAA.

The highway safety agency's report shows that seatbelt use continues to be greater for the 32 states that enforce primary belt laws, including Arkansas. Those laws allow law enforcement officers to cite drivers who neglect to wear seatbelts regardless of whether they've committed other violations.

National Highway Safety Administrator David Strickland cites efforts such as the “Click it or Ticket” campaign for the uptick in belt use. "Moving forward, it will be critical to build on this success using a multifaceted approach that combines good laws, effective enforcement, and public education and awareness," Strickland said in the report.

The report also quotes Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as saying that buckling up is one of the most effective methods of protecting against injury while driving.

The report and survey are available on the national highway agency's website.