Seat Belts

Seat Belt

Seat belts are the oldest form of occupant protection, with Volvo patenting the first rudimentary seat belt in 1889. However, it wasn't until 1968 that the federal government required seat belts to be installed in all new passenger cars.

U.S. seat belt use rates have steadily increased over time. In 1994, the observed national seat belt use rate was 58%. In 2019, belt use had reached 91%. Yet despite these gains, too many drivers and passengers are choosing not to buckle up and are paying for it with their lives. In 2020, of the 23,824 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2020, 10,893 (46%) were unrestrained at the time of the crash.1

GHSA Policy

Click here to view GHSA's Policy and Priorities on Occupant Protection.

Click It or Ticket

Click It or TicketClick It or Ticket is a national program operated by NHTSA to boost seat belt use and reduce highway fatalities through increased, high visibility enforcement of seat belt laws, coupled with national and state media campaigns utilizing earned, paid and social media. It takes place each year around Memorial Day. Recent campaigns have focused on nighttime seat belt use because fewer people buckle up at night.

Click It or Ticket is one of the most successful efforts to improve behavior on a mass scale in the history of public outreach and education campaigns. The program’s irrefutable success in vastly increasing seat belt use is a model example of how equitable enforcement of traffic laws and public awareness of safe driving practices can help save lives. Two decades of demonstrations projects have shown that Click It or Ticket and high visibility enforcement campaigns for special populations of drivers with low seat belt use rates are effective at increasing belt use, with most special programs resulting in 2- to 14-percentage point increases in observed front seat belt use during daytime hours (High-Visibility Enforcement and Seat Belt Use, NHTSA).

GHSA's State Highway Safety Office (SHSO) members provide funding for increased enforcement and work with law enforcement agencies and other partners to educate drivers and their passengers about the importance of seat belt use.


1 National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2022, September).  2020 Summary of motor vehicle crashes: 2020 data. (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 813 369). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.



Seat belt laws are divided into two categories: primary and secondary. Specific laws vary greatly from state to state, depending on the age of the rider and in which seat he or she is sitting.

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