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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). In Utah for 2015-2019, there were 305 deaths to unrestrained occupants. 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.^1^ [[br]] ---- #NHTSA, [ Traffic Safety Facts]
As part of the Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, high school students were asked about their seat belt use when riding in a car driven by someone else. Utah teen seat belt use has remained fairly steady since 2001 with nonuse ranging from between 5.1% and 9.5%. Nationally, teen seat belt use has improved since 2003 and there has been no significant difference between reported Utah and national teen seat belt usage since 2009. Utah's all-time low for teen seat belt non-use occurred in 2019 (5.1%) while the national all-time low occurred in 2015 (6.1%).

Adolescent Seat Belt Use: Percentage of Students Who Never or Rarely Wore a Seat Belt, Utah and U.S., 1991-2019


*Use caution in interpreting; the estimate has a coefficient of variation >30% and is therefore deemed unreliable by Utah Department of Health standards. 2015 YRBS data for Utah are not available. The Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System includes national, state, and local school-based surveys of representative samples of 9th through 12th grade students. These surveys are conducted every two years, usually during the spring semester. The national survey, conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, provides data representative of high school students in public and private schools in the United States. The state and local surveys, conducted by departments of health and education, provide data representative of public high school students in each state or local school district.

Data Sources

  • Utah Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, Utah Department of Health
  • Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Data Interpretation Issues

Based on national criteria, 17 counties were selected for the 2019 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.


Adult and Front Seat Passenger Safety Belt Use (observational study): Percentage of '''drivers and front seat passengers observed using safety restraints''' in Utah. The survey uses data collected by Utah Highway Patrol Officers at intersections, highway ramps, and parking lots. Seat Belt Use (BRFSS): Number of persons who reported wearing a seat belt always or nearly always Adolescent Seat Belt Use: Students who never or rarely never wore a seat belt


Adult/Front Seat Passenger Use (observational study): Number of drivers and front seat passengers observed using safety restraints. Seat Belt Use (BRFSS): Number of persons who reported wearing a seat belt always or nearly always Adolescent Seat Belt Use: Number of students who never or rarely never wore a seat belt


Adult/Front Seat Passenger: Number of persons observed Seat Belt Use (BRFSS/YRBS): Number of persons surveyed

Healthy People Objective IVP-15:

Increase use of safety belts
U.S. Target: 92.0 percent
State Target: 92.4 percent

Other Objectives

'''Other Healthy People 2020 objectives:'''[[br]] IVP-16: Increase age-appropriate vehicle restraint system use in children[[br]] *16.1: Aged 0 to 12 months **U.S. Baseline: 86% of children aged 0 to 12 months were restrained in rear-facing child safety seats in 2008 **'''U.S. Target:''' 95% (10% 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% improvement - highest was in 2001 at 97.1%)[[br]] [[br]] *16.2: Aged 1 to 3 years **U.S. Baseline: 72% of children aged 1 to 3 years were restrained in front-facing child safety seats in 2008 **'''U.S. Target:''' 79% (10% 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% improvement - highest was in 2001 at 97.1%)[[br]] [[br]] *16.3: Aged 4 to 7 years **U.S. Baseline: 43% of children aged 4 to 7 years were restrained in booster seats in 2008 **'''U.S. Target:''' 47% (10% 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% improvement)

How Are We Doing?

In 2019, the observed seat belt usage was 90.2% overall for the 17 counties included in the study. The 2018 observed seat belt usage rate was 89.0%. In 2019 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 91% and 89% for the rural counties. The Utah Crash Summary published by the Department of Public Safety reports percentages of children using child safety seats in crashes. The child safety seat usage during 2015-2019 by age was: 1-year-olds 85.3%, 2-year-olds 79.2%, 3-year-olds 75.8%, 4-year-olds 67.9%, 5-year-olds 58.8%, 6-year-olds 44.1%, 7-year-olds 28.6%, and 8-year-olds 14.0%. Of concern is the drastically lower percentage of child safety seat usage among older ages, indicating children are moved to adult-sized seat belts prematurely.

How Do We Compare With the U.S.?

In 2018, the Utah death rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 0.81 which was lower than the U.S. rate of 1.13. [National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2020, July) State traffic data: 2018 data (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812948). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.]

What Is Being Done?

The Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP) provides funding to the 13 local health departments in Utah 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 motor vehicle crash deaths. For the past eight 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 Zero Fatalities Program ([]) is an educational campaign aimed at reducing some of the top causes of traffic related deaths in Utah: not buckling up, drowsy driving, impaired driving, distracted driving, and aggressive driving. Utah's seat belt law is a '''primary enforcement law'''. 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. All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts and children ages 8 and younger must be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat.

Available Services

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

Health Program Information

The Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP) mission is to be "a trusted and comprehensive resource for data and technical assistance related to violence and injury. With this information, we help promote partnerships and programs to prevent injuries and improve public health."
Page Content Updated On 10/21/2021, Published on 11/23/2021
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 Mon, 06 December 2021 4:45:39 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Tue, 23 Nov 2021 12:15:27 MST