Unrestrained Passengers Killed More Frequently

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2000, nearly two-thirds of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in traffic crashes was unrestrained.

In 2000, 41% of passenger car occupants and 45% of light truck occupants involved in fatal crashes were unrestrained. In fatal crashes, 75% of the passenger car occupants were killed were totally ejected from the vehicle. In fact, ejection from the vehicle accounted for an overall 28% of all passenger vehicle occupant fatalities. And the ejection rate for occupants of light trucks in fatal crashes was nearly twice the rate for passenger car occupants.

Safety belts have been proven effective in preventing total ejections from an occupant vehicle. NHTSA reports that in the year 2000, only 1% of the occupants reported to have been using safety restraints were totally ejected, compared with 22% of the unrestrained occupants.

In 2000, 49 states and the District of Columbia had safety belt laws in effect. However, the overall rate of use of safety belts varies widely from state to state. Factors such as differences in public attitudes, enforcement practices, legal provisions, and public information and education programs all played a role in the usage rate from state to state.

From 1975 through 2000, it is estimated that 135,102 lives were saved by the use of safety belts. 11,889 of that number were saved in the year 2000 alone. It is further estimated that if all passenger vehicle occupants over the age of 4 years wore safety belts a total of 21,127 lives could have been saved in the year 2000. That is an additional 9,238 lives in a single year saved just by using safety belts.

In addition to safety belts, it is estimated that 316 children under the age of 5 years were saved in the year 2000 as a result of child restraint usage. Between 1975 and 2000, an estimated 4,816 lives were saved through the use of child safety restraints.

NHTSA recommends that children in rear facing child seats should not be placed in the front seat of cars equipped with a passenger side airbag. The impact of the airbag deployment can and has resulted in injury to the child. NHTSA recommends that such child seats be placed in the rear seats. It also recommends that all children under the age of 12 years sit in the rear seat away from a deploying airbag.

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