Do you wear your seat belt every time you get in your vehicle? You should: it’s the law. In the state of Maryland, all drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts. Maryland seat belt laws are also subject to primary enforcement for all drivers, front seat passengers, and back seat riders under sixteen. This means a police officer can pull you over for seat belt violations alone.
Thanks to Click It or Ticket and other safety initiatives, safety belt use across the US has climbed to 90%, but there is still room for improvement. Here we share some current Maryland seat belt statistics.
Seat Belts Save Lives
Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the US. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that:
- Wearing a seat belt reduces the chance of death in a crash by about 45% for cars and 60% for light trucks.
- Three-point seat belts reduce the chance of ejection during a crash by 91%.
- An estimated 74% of ejected drivers who died would have survived if they had been wearing safety belts.
Maryland Seat Belt Use
Seat belts have been mandatory in the state of Maryland since 1997. Despite their obvious benefits, we have yet to reach 100% compliance. Safety belt use was at 90.3% in 2018. The numbers of fatalities for unrestrained occupants has remained fairly consistent over the last five years, averaging about one hundred per year. (There were 116 in 2017.) The number of injuries to passengers not wearing seat belts has been on the rise, however, with 376 in 2017.
Between 2013-2017, most of these crashes happened in Baltimore County and Prince George’s County. In addition, two-thirds of unbelted crashes in the region happened in metropolitan areas:
- 44.5% of crashes occurred in the Baltimore Metropolitan area.
- 32.5% of crashes occurred in the Washington Metropolitan area.
- 23.0% of crashes occurred in other areas of the state of Maryland.
This likely has to do with how many more drivers and crashes overall occur in these areas. Safety belt use is typically lower in rural areas.
Who is Most at Risk?
Young Drivers and Passengers
This 2016 NHTSA report shows that, of people who died in car crashes that year:
- 62% between the ages of 13-15 were not wearing safety belts.
- 59% between 25-34 were unbelted, making them the most at-risk among drivers.
- 58% between 21-24 were also unbelted, putting them close behind the 25-34 group.
Young adult drivers and passengers also have the highest non-fatal injury rates of all adults in crashes.
It’s vital for all adults to set a good example for young passengers and future drivers by buckling up every time they get in the car. When drivers aren’t wearing safety belts, 70% of the time the children in their cars aren’t wearing them either. Maryland child passenger safety laws require all children under 8 to be in an appropriate car or booster seat, and all other kids under sixteen to wear seat belts.
Men are also less likely to wear seat belts than women. The above NHTSA report notes that in 2016, almost twice as many males (15,411) died in fatal crashes than females (8,294). Of these, 52% of men and 40% of women were not wearing safety belts.
SUV and Pickup Truck Drivers
More drivers of sports utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and other light trucks also tend to have more fatalities where occupants are not wearing seatbelts. For fatalities in the following vehicle types, the indicated percentages were NOT wearing safety belts:
- Passenger cars: 42% of drivers and passengers.
- Pickup trucks: 60% of drivers, 66% of passengers.
- Sports utility vehicles: 53% of drivers, 57% of passengers.
- Vans: 37% of drivers, 46% of passengers.
- Other light trucks: 65% of drivers, 69% of passengers.
Buckle Up, Every Time
Seat belts save lives. Help us move Maryland toward zero deaths and buckle up every passenger in your car every time you drive. No matter how short your journey or how little traffic there is, it could be the difference between life and death.