The culture around the use of seat belts has changed a lot in United States since the early 1980’s. Today many of us take it for granted that using a seat belt in a serious car accident will reduce the chance of injury or even death. The obvious benefit of seat belt use is not as clear to some because one in seven adults still do not wear a seat belt every time they use a motor vehicle.
Culture and seat belt safety laws may offer an explanation to the statistic because some areas of the country routinely wear seat belts more than other regions. The West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington lead the country in the highest percentage of regular seat belt use. Oregon leads the country with 94 percent of people there reporting that they always wear a seat belt. California came in second with 93.2 percent, and Washington came in third with 92 percent.
The Plains states of North Dakota and South Dakota came in last place and second to last in the percentage of people living those respective states that say they always wear a seat belt. The percentage of people who always wear a seat belt in North Dakota is 59.2 percent and in South Dakota it is 59.7 percent.
There may be a correlation with the type of seat belt laws on the books in different states and the percentage of people who say they always wear their seat belt. The West Coast states all have mandatory seat belt laws where police can pull a vehicle over if they believe an occupant is not wearing a seat belt. In comparison, North and South Dakota have laws were an officer may issue a seat belt ticket only after pulling the vehicle over for another reason. Regardless of a state’s seat belt law, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that seat belts significantly reduce car accident injuries.