Safety belt use by Texas adults has increased steadily over the past decade, but usage rates for children lag far behind, according to recent studies.
A mandatory seat belt law was passed in 1985 requiring drivers and front seat passengers to use safety belts. Since that time, seat belt use has jumped from 14 to 76 percent, but the statistics are less encouraging for children.
In spite of a steady increase in child restraint usage since the 1985 law, only 63 percent of children (infants to 4 year olds) in urban areas are being buckled up. That means one out of three children are not restrained in compliance with Texas law. These and other trends are illustrated in the findings of a study funded by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).
Even though Texas safety belt use ranked among the top ten in the nation in 1996, officials at TxDOT say the usage rate is not high enough. Terry Pence, Traffic Safety Programs Director of TxDOT, says if belt use could be increased by 15 percent in Texas, nearly 400 lives would be saved each year and more than 4,000 moderate to severe injuries would be prevented.
“Drivers and passengers in Texas are exposing themselves and their children to serious injury and even death, simply because they are not buckling up,” Pence said. “Every hour someone in the U.S. dies in a crash simply because they were not buckled up.”
There is a national goal to reduce child passenger fatalities 15 percent and to increase overall seat belt use to 85 percent by the year 2000. Increasing safety belt usage to 85 percent would not only spare thousands of Texans pain and suffering, but also save them $600 million each and every year in the cost of insurance administration, as well as medical, workplace and legal costs.
The TTI study also showed that:
TTI began collecting occupant restraint use data in a sample of several Texas cities for TxDOT in 1984.
TTI, a member of the Texas A&M University System, is the largest university-based transportation research agency in the U.S. Patented TTI innovations have been credited with saving lives, time and money throughout the nation.