More Americans than ever before are using seat belts when traveling on the nation's highways, according to a new survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Eighty-six percent of motorists are buckling up, up by 2 percentage points from last year. The most dramatic increase in seat belt use occurred in the South, where seat belt use rose to 85 percent this year from 80 percent in 2011.
Seat belt use is higher in states with primary belt laws, which allow law enforcement officers to issue tickets to motorists solely for not wearing seat belts. In states with secondary belt laws, officers can issue seat belt tickets only when citing drivers for other traffic violations, such as speeding.
Nationwide, 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed primary seat belt laws, and another 17 states have secondary laws on the books. New Hampshire is the only state that has not enacted either a primary or secondary seat belt law, though the state's primary child passenger safety law applies to all drivers and passengers under the age of 18.
"Thanks to the ongoing work of our state and local partners and national efforts such as 'Click it or Ticket,' we've made steady gains in belt use in recent years," Administrator David Strickland said in a press statement. "Moving forward, it will be critical to build on this success using a multi-faceted approach that combines good laws, effective enforcement, and public education and awareness."