Gilroy – Twenty-eight states that do not have the strict seat belt laws imposed in California should pass similar measures in order to save lives, according to a study released Thursday.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated that about 700 lives would be saved each year if every state passed “primary” seat belt laws, meaning police are allowed to stop drivers for failing to wear a seat belt.
California, 20 other states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws. The remaining 28 states have secondary seat belt laws that allow police to ticket drivers for failing to wear seat belts, but only after stopping them for another violation. New Hampshire does not have a seat belt law.
The study found that when states strengthen seat belt laws from secondary to primary, death rates decline by an estimated 7 percent.
“In states with primary laws, safety belt use rates are higher,” Susan Ferguson, senior vice president of the Insurance Institute said in a statement releasing the study’s findings. “The result is that crash deaths are reduced.
Where primary laws are in effect, drivers are more likely to buckle up.”
The study looked at driver fatality rates between 1989 and 2003 in 9 states, including California, and Washington, D.C., that recently changed their seat belt laws from secondary to primary.
During the study period, California and many of the other states participated in “Click It or Ticket” campaigns that enforced seat belt use, Ferguson said. The Institute estimated that 2,990 lives were saved during the study period due to the tougher seat belt laws.