Skip directly to searchSkip directly to the site navigationSkip directly to the page's main content

Health Indicator Report of Seat Belts: Safety Restraint Use

Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are one of the leading causes of injury death and hospitalization in Utah. Seat belts are the single most effective safety device for preventing serious injuries and reducing fatalities in MVCs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA has found that deaths and serious injuries caused by MVCs could be reduced by approximately 50 percent with proper and consistent use of safety belts. NHTSA also found that if all 50 states achieved 90 percent seat belt usage, it would result in an overall total cost savings of $5.5 billion (NHTSA, In Utah, unbelted crash occupants were 34 times more likely to die in a crash than crash occupants wearing seat belts. Unrestrained teen drivers and their passengers were 126 times more likely than restrained occupants to be killed in a crash. Unbuckled passengers can also become a projectile and increase the risk of hurting or killing others in the car by 40 percent. Ejection from the vehicle is one of the most injurious events that can happen to a person in a crash. People not wearing a seat belt are 30 percent more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash. Three out of four people who are ejected during a crash die from their injuries.
Over 97 percent of persons who survived a crash reported being restrained. Unrestrained crash occupants were 130 times more likely to be fully ejected from a motor vehicle and 34 times more likely to be killed than restrained crash occupants.

Likelihood of Injury and Death: Risks for Belted and Unbelted Occupants in a Motor Vehicle Crash, Utah, 2013

Data Source

Utah Crash Summary, Department of Public Safety, Highway Safety Office

Data Interpretation Issues

Based on national criteria, 17 counties were selected for the 2014 Utah Safety Belt Observational Survey, a practice that began in 2012. (Utah Safety Belt Observational Survey, August 2013 Report). Previously, only the 6 most populous counties were included. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued new Uniform Criteria for State Observational Surveys of Seat Belt Use. The final rule was published in the Federal Register Vol. 76 No. 63, April 1, 2011, Rules and Regulations, pp. 18042 - 18059. The Utah Plan was accepted as fully compliant with the Uniform Criteria and was used for the implementation of Utah's 2012 and 2013 seat belt surveys. The Utah Highway Safety Office stratified roadway segments by functional classification (Interstate/Primary, Arterial/Secondary, and Local). This allowed for stratification of road segments and to employ a systematic probability proportional to size (PPS) sample, to select the road segments to be used as observation sites. Utah is composed of 29 counties, 17 of which accounted for about 91 percent of the passenger vehicle crash-related fatalities during 2011 to 2013. Therefore, sample sites were drawn from all 17 counties for inclusion in the survey. A random, systematic sample of 10 road segments were selected PPS within each sampled county. This process resulted in the selection of 170 road segments (17 counties x 10 sites per county). According to federal guidelines, the reliability of the survey results should be within the 95 percent confidence interval. For the 2014 survey the standard error was determined to be 0.0081. The data were analyzed and found to be well within a standard error of 2.5 percentage points as required by NHTSA guidelines.


Percentage of drivers and front seat passengers observed using safety restraints in Utah as part of the National Occupant Protection Use Survey conducted by the Utah Highway Safety Office. The survey uses data collected by UHP troopers at intersections, highway ramps, and parking lots.


Number of persons observed using restraints.


Number of persons observed.

Healthy People Objective IVP-15:

Increase use of safety belts
U.S. Target: 92.4 percent
State Target: 92.4 percent

Other Objectives

IVP-16 Increase age-appropriate vehicle restraint system use in children -16.1 Birth to 12 months **U.S. Baseline: 86 percent of children aged 0 to 12 months were restrained in rear-facing child safety seats in 2008 **U.S. Target: 95 percent (10 percent improvement) **Utah Baseline: Ages 0-4: 93.1% child restraint usage (2008 Utah Safety Belt Observational Survey) **Utah Target: Ages 0-4: 98% child restraint usage (5 percent improvement - highest was in 2001 at 97.1%) -16.2 Children aged 1 to 3 years **U.S. Baseline: 72 percent of children aged 1 to 3 years were restrained in front-facing child safety seats in 2008 **U.S. Target: 79 percent (10 percent improvement) **Utah Baseline: Ages 0-4: 93.1% child restraint usage (2008 Utah Safety Belt Observational Survey) **Utah Target: Ages 0-4: 98% child restraint usage (5 percent improvement - highest was in 2001 at 97.1%) -16.3 Children aged 4 to 7 years **U.S. Baseline: 43 percent of children aged 4 to 7 years were restrained in booster seats in 2008 **U.S. Target: 47 percent child restraint usage (10 percent improvement) **Utah Baseline: Ages 5-8: 45.7% booster seat usage in motor vehicle crashes (2008 Utah Crash Summary Report) **Utah Target: Ages 5-8: 50.2% child restraint usage (10 percent improvement)

How Are We Doing?

In 2014, the observed seat belt usage was 83.4 percent overall for all 17 counties. In 2014 the 'urban' counties of Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Washington, and Weber were analyzed separately from the 'rural' counties. The seat belt usage rate for the urban counties was 85.8 percent and 73.8 percent for the rural counties. The 2013 Utah Crash Summary published by the Department of Public Safety reports percentages of children ages 0-8 using child safety seats. The child safety seat usage for 0-4-year-olds is 86.1 percent. Of concern is the drastically lower percentage (43.2%) of child safety seat usage among 5-8-year-olds, indicating children are moved to adult-sized seat belts prematurely. For 0-8-year-olds, the usage of child safety seats in 2013 was 68.8 percent, an increase in usage compared to any previous year since 2004.

How Do We Compare With the U.S.?

2012 is the first year since 1999 that Utah had a lower percentage of buckled-up passengers than the U.S. overall. Utah's participation in the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) has allowed for comparison of state-level data to national data. Although in 1994, when this study was first conducted, Utah's seat belt usage was lower than that of the U.S. overall (53 percent in Utah compared to 58 percent in the U.S.), Utah usage has surpassed that of the U.S. throughout the 2000-2010 decade.

What Is Being Done?

The Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP) provides funding to Utah's 12 local health departments to implement motor vehicle safety programs and Safe Kids coalitions/chapters activities. These programs focus on child passenger safety and teen driving. The VIPP partners with the Utah Teen Driving Safety Task Force, Zero Fatalities Program, and Utah Highway Safety Office, among other state and local agencies to prevent MVC deaths. For the past seven years, a book has been published that tells the stories of teens who died in motor vehicle-related crashes. The book is distributed to each drivers education instructor in the state as a prevention tool. The books can be downloaded at or The Utah Department of Transportation's Zero Fatalities Program ( is a comprehensive, educational campaign aimed at reducing Utah's top five causes of traffic related deaths: not buckling up, drowsy driving, impaired driving, distracted driving, and aggressive driving. Utah is one of 17 states that does not have a primary seat belt law for all drivers and passengers. Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to ticket a driver for not wearing a seat belt without any other traffic offense taking place. Secondary seat belt laws state that law enforcement officers may issue a ticket for not wearing a seat belt only when there is another citable traffic infraction. In Utah, primary enforcement applies for drivers and passengers under 19 years of age; for drivers and passengers age 19 and above, the secondary seat belt law applies. In 2000, the Utah Legislature upgraded the law to make child safety seat use mandatory for children through age four. In 2008, the Utah Legislature enacted a booster seat law, requiring children younger than 8 years of age to use an appropriate child restraint device like a car seat or a booster seat. Previously, the law required only children under age of 5 to use an approved child restraint device. The new law now protects children from 5 up to 8 years of age through use of a booster seat or car seat. However, children younger than 8 who are at least 57 inches tall are exempt from the law and may use a regular seat belt.

Available Services

Call 1-888-DASH-2-DOT or visit to locate the certified child passenger safety technician nearest you. Violence and Injury Prevention Program, Utah Department of Health 801-538-6141 Safe Kids Utah Service provided: child safety seat inspection, booster seat inspection 801-538-6852 Zero Fatalities Program Utah Highway Safety Office 801-293-2480 Utah Safety Council Service provided: defensive driving course 801-262-5400 Intermountain Injury Control Research Center 801-585-9157 NATIONAL WEB SITES: Governors Highway Safety Association National Center for Injury Prevention and Control National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Safe Kids USA Children's Safety Network U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission A comprehensive auto safety page with many useful links:

Health Program Information

The Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP) is a trusted and comprehensive resource for data related to violence and injury. Through education, this information helps promote partnerships and programs to prevent injuries and improve public health. VIPP goals are to a) focus prevention efforts on reducing intentional and unintentional injury, b) conduct education aimed at increasing awareness and changing behaviors that contribute to the occurrence of injury, c) strengthen local health department capacity to conduct local injury prevention programs, d) promote legislation, policy changes, and enforcement that will reduce injury hazards and increase safe behaviors, e) collaborate with private and public partners, and f) improve the Utah Department of Health capacity to collect mortality and morbidity data from multiple sources and conduct injury epidemiology for use in prevention planning, implementation, and evaluation.
Page Content Updated On 12/08/2014, Published on 12/10/2014
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Wed, 07 October 2015 13:24:53 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:46:19 MDT