States with tougher seat belt laws translate to more teens buckling up, according to a new seat belt study conducted by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance. The study found that new teen drivers who live in states with secondary enforcement seat belt laws are less likely to buckle up than teens driving in primary enforcement states.
What's the difference? Law officials in primary enforcement states can stop and cite a driver solely for not wearing a seat belt. Police officers in secondary enforcement states can only issue a seat belt ticket after pulling over the motorist for another offense. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are 32 primary enforcement states.
The study polled 3,126 high school students across the nation and found that 82% regularly wear their seat belts while driving and 69% wear a seat belt as a passenger. In primary enforcement states, the study found that teen drivers are 12% more likely to buckle up and teen passengers 15% more likely than those in secondary enforcement states.
Research also showed that teens living in rural areas, African-American teens, those driving pickup trucks, students with low grades and those living in lower socioeconomic areas are less likely to buckle up.
According to the study's authors, car crashes remain the leading cause of death among teens in the U.S. "Teen crashes are complex events with multiple factors contributing to them. However, the main reason teens die in these crashes is failure to buckle up. This study suggests that if state laws don't reinforce the importance of seat belt use, teens may be less motivated to buckle up and are placed at much higher risk of being injured or killed in a crash," said Dennis Durbin, co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention and co-author of the study, in a statement.
Using a seat belt reduces the risk of a fatal injury by 45%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.