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We all know we should wear seatbelts when we are in motor vehicles. Educational campaigns have made this clear. However, a recent study shows that we often do not choose to "buckle up," even though we know we should. Julie McClafferty, with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, examined seatbelt use by drivers during 150 000 trips in 100 different vehicles on the roads of northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Drivers were categorized as being infrequent, occasional, or consistent users of seatbelts.


Ms McClafferty found that occasional seatbelt users buckled up 40% to 85% of the time. In addition, occasional seatbelt users wore seatbelts only 73% of the time when driving on roads with an average speed limit less than or equal to 30 mph. If the speed limit was greater than or equal to 50 mph, the occasional seatbelt wearers buckled up 89% of the time. Ms McClafferty expressed concern that drivers may have the inaccurate perception that risk is lower at lower speeds and higher at higher speeds.


Occasional users of seatbelts were not likely to buckle up if they were on neighborhood streets or took more trips per day. McClafferty attributes this dangerous practice to the "inconvenience" of frequent buckling and unbuckling. She also reports that some people fear being trapped in a vehicle if they wear seatbelts.


The Centers for Disease Control reports men are 10% less likely to buckle up than women. Infrequent seatbelt users buckled up for 30% of their trips or less. Twenty-one percent of women in the study younger than 40 years buckled up infrequently, whereas 22% of men in this age group were infrequent seatbelt users.


McClafferty emphasizes that we need to help people understand that distance and speed do not impact the risk ofbeing in an automobile. She suggests educational campaigns that emphasize the dangers of choosing not to buckle up when traveling short distances or moving at low rates of speed. Once again, we have the evidence supporting healthcare practices, and members of our population choose to ignore the evidence.


Source: McGill N. Seat-belt safety takes a backseat among drivers traveling familiar roads, study says. The Nation's Health. 2013;43(4):E17. Available at Accessed June 10, 2013.


Submitted by: Alma Jackson, PhD, RN, COHN-S, News Editor at