GLEN BURNIE, MD (September 22, 2021) – The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office today announced Maryland’s preliminary statewide seat belt usage rate of 91.4% based on an annual survey, an increase from the 89.9% reported in 2020. The annual Roadside Observational Survey was completed in June and observed 39,813 drivers of passenger vehicles and trucks in 13 jurisdictions across the state on primary, secondary, and local roads. The observations also included more than 9,200 passengers.
“Buckling up takes less than three seconds and is the single most effective way to prevent death and serious injury in a car crash,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “While we are pleased to see the increase in seat belt use, we will not be satisfied until everyone is buckled up, every seat, every ride.”
Each year, the seat belt survey reinforces how drivers set the safety standards for themselves and others in the vehicle. In vehicles where the driver was belted, 93% of passengers were belted. Conversely, in vehicles with unbelted drivers, only 40% of passengers were buckled up. Unbuckled passengers can become projectiles in the event of a crash, causing injury or death to others in the vehicle, as well as partial or full ejection.
Buckle Up, Even for Short Trips on Local Roads
While overall seat belt use rose, the percentage of drivers and passengers using seat belts as they traveled on local roads decreased by more than five percentage points for cars and nearly six percentage points for trucks. The numbers indicate that while most people tend to wear seat belts when traveling on larger primary highways and secondary roads, some do not when driving on local roads. Drivers and passengers are urged to buckle up — every seat, every ride – as they travel, even if their destination is only a few miles from home.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), 52% of collisions in the United States occur within a 5-mile radius of the home, and 69% of collisions occur within 10 miles. And even low speeds on local roads can lead to critical injuries; an unbelted occupant in a crash going 30 miles per hour hits a windshield or other surface with the same impact as falling from a three-story building.
Seat Belt Use in Trucks & SUVs
Another area of concern is low seat belt use for those in trucks. The overall seat belt rate for trucks was 86%, with the rate dropping to 72.8% on local roads. Most truck and SUV drivers have the common misconception that because they are in a larger vehicle, they are safer from high impact crashes. Trucks and SUVs are much more prone to roll over in a crash while driving at high speeds. A seat belt can reduce the risk of fatal injury to the driver and front-seat passengers in SUVs, trucks, and vans by 60%.
Excessive speeds on Maryland roads in 2020, combined with lower seat belt use, may have resulted in more severe crashes – increasing the chances of serious injuries or fatality among unrestrained occupants. In 2020, preliminary data shows that 124 people were killed in crashes while not wearing a seat belt, an increase of 20% compared to 2019.
National data also shows that seat belt use tends to be lower among teen drivers and car crashes are the most common cause of death for people age 5 through 24. Education is a key component for driver awareness and MDOT MVA is working to reinforce the importance of wearing seat belts through the Be the BUCKLED UP Driver campaign.
In Maryland, every driver and passenger must wear a seat belt. Children under the age of eight must be in a proper booster or child safety seat. Each person not buckled will receive an $83 citation.