National Seat Belt Bill Will Save Thousands of Lives, AIA Says

February 16, 2004

Congress could help save thousands of lives by passing the National Highway Safety Act (S. 1993), according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).

The legislation would require all states to pass a primary seat belt enforcement law or to increase their seat belt use rate to at least 90 percent within three years. A small percentage of highway trust fund money would be withheld if a state failed to achieve that goal.

“There is absolutely no question that seat belts save lives and prevent injuries. Yet studies show that the United States lags behind many other developed nations with respect to seat belt use,” said David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel.

AIA joined other members of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safetythis week in endorsing the legislation, co-authored by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). “Because about one-half of a typical auto insurance premium goes for costs relating to personal injuries, the National Highway Safety Act will help lower costs as well as helping to save lives,” Snyder added.

If every motorist and auto passenger buckled up, an additional 9,200 fatalities and 143,000 serious injuries could reportedly be prevented every year.

Currently, only 20 states and the District of Columbia allow for primary enforcement of a seat belt law, with the rest allowing the enforcement of seat belt laws only if an officer notices another potential violation.

States with primary enforcement seat belt laws have an average belt use rate that is reportedly as much as 15 percent higher than those with a secondary enforcement law.

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