According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 2½ million people involved in automobile accidents visited hospital emergency departments in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. Seat belts are known to cut down sharply on injuries and fatalities—by some estimates, as much as 50%. Air bags are no substitute for seat belts, as by themselves they do not improve safety more than a seat belt does. (The combination of air bags and seat belts offer maximum protection both for drivers and for passengers.)
However, despite these well-known facts and the fact that seat belts have been required in cars for decades, not all drivers use this simple vehicle safety tool.
Who doesn’t? Some of it is measured by age. Of the teenagers (aged 13-20 years old) who suffered a fatal crash, more than half did not have a seat belt on. The 18-34 age cohort is less likely to buckle up than their peers who are over age 35. Some use is divided by gender. The CDC’s data indicate that men are less likely—10% less so—to use a seat belt than women are. And some is geography. More than 75% of adults who live in rural areas, for example, use seat belts, but that is far less than people who live in suburban or urban parts of the country, where it rises to 87%. Finally, some is placement in the vehicle. Passengers in the rear seat are less likely than people in the front seat to wear a seat belt. Their odds of being injured in a collision, or possibly causing injuries to other passengers, rises accordingly.