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Seat belt use in Michigan drops to 17-year low

The drop in seat belt usage coincides with the state’s highest number of traffic deaths in 13 years
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 11:55 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A Michigan State University study found that seat belt use across the state dropped by nearly 2% over two years and reached a 17-year low this year.

Michigan’s seat belt use rate for 2021 stands at 92.6%, according to a observation study of drivers conducted by Michigan State University. That is the state’s lowest seat belt usage rate since 2004.

“The seat belt use numbers are moving in the wrong direction, and it’s important to turn things around as quickly as possible,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. “Seat belts are the cornerstone of any effective traffic safety strategy. We must continually remind drivers and passengers of all ages to buckle up, every trip, every time.”

Michigan’s seat belt usage rate remains above the national average, which stands at 90.7%. New Hampshire has the nation’s lowest seat belt usage rate at 70.7% while Hawaii has the highest at 97.1%.

Prince pointed out that Michigan’s drop in seat belt use coincides with the state’s highest crash fatality rate in 13 years. Michigan State Police say 1,083 motorists died across the state in 2020, which was a 10% increase from the previous year and the highest total since 2007.

Michigan State Police say the trend of traffic deaths so far this year is above last year’s 13-year record level. The Office of Highway Safety Planning says a 1% increase in seat belt use leads to 10 fewer traffic deaths and 100 fewer serious injuries.

The agency is launching a new statewide enforcement campaign on July 24, in which police will provide additional patrols focusing on seat belt and drunken driving laws.

The seat belt observation study also looked for drivers talking and typing on electronic devices behind the wheel. The rate of drivers typing dropped to 6.4% in 2020, which is down from 7.5% in 2019.

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