More drivers, passengers buckling up; cell phone use up slightly

            Michigan’s seat belt use rate climbed slightly higher this year, rising from 93.4 percent in 2018 to 94.4 percent, according to recently-released results from a statewide grant-funded observation study conducted by Michigan State University. 

            “Traffic safety programs like Click It or Ticket are meant to reduce traffic deaths and lessen the impact of injuries,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.  “This campaign continues to remind motorists about Michigan’s life-saving seat belt law.  While the numbers are slowly heading in a positive direction, the goal is to keep moving toward zero deaths on our roadways.”

            Since the state’s all-time belt use record of 97.9 percent in 2009, use declined to 93 percent in 2013.  With the increase to 94.4 percent, Michigan’s use rate is the highest it has been since 2016. 

            Every 1 percent increase in seat belt use means an estimated fewer 10 traffic deaths and 100 fewer serious injuries.

            According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2018 seat belt use in the United States ranged from 76.4 percent in New Hampshire to 97.8 percent in Hawaii. The nationwide seat belt use rate was 89.6 percent in 2018. 

            The direct observation survey also included driver use of electronic devices, encompassing both talking with a handheld or hands-free device and/or typing.  The rate was slightly higher at 7.5 percent, than last year’s 7.1 percent.

            The NHTSA requires states to conduct annual seat belt observation surveys to determine belt usage.