Seat Belt Use in Wisconsin Highest in History

Seat belt use in Wisconsin has reached an all-time high of more than 88%, according to a recently completed observational survey conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

The 2016 survey found that 88.4% of passenger vehicle occupants (drivers and right front seat passengers) buckled up compared with 85.8% in a similar survey last year. The national average for safety belt use is approximately 89%. However, Wisconsin’s safety belt use rate still lags behind neighboring states whose rates exceed 90%.

Although safety belt use in Wisconsin has increased, approximately half of the drivers and passengers killed in state traffic crashes last year were not wearing a safety belt. In 2015, there were nearly 55,000 convictions in Wisconsin for failure to fasten a safety belt.

The 2016 observational survey also found the following:

  • Occupants of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) were the most likely to buckle-up. Their safety belt use rate was 93.7%.
  • Occupants of pickup and commercial trucks were the least likely to buckle up. The pickup occupants’ use rate was 81.5%, and commercial truck occupants’ use rate was slightly less than 80%.
  • Females were more likely to buckle up than males. The female occupants’ use rate was 93.1% while the males’ use rate was 84.4%. However, this gender difference of 8.7% is lower than in past surveys, which had a difference of 10% or more.
  • The safety belt use rate in the Milwaukee metro area increased to 86%. In last year’s survey, the Milwaukee metro area had a use rate of about 80%.

"We are encouraged that effective safety belt enforcement and education are showing positive results," says David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. "Increasing safety belt use in the Milwaukee metro area has been a challenge, and we’re pleased that it went up significantly last year. However, the study also showed that we need to continue to work on increasing safety belt use among males as well as pickup and commercial truck occupants. To prevent deaths and injuries, our goal has to be 100 percent safety belt use in Wisconsin."

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