State leads record U.S. seat belt use in 2005
WASHINGTON » Motorists in Hawaii had the nation's highest rate of clicking their seat belts in 2005, a record year for seat belt use nationwide.
Best and Worst
A look at the top and bottom five states in seat belt use rates:
1. Hawaii -- 95.3%
2. Washington -- 95.2%
3. Nevada -- 94.8%
4. Arizona -- 94.2%
5. Oregon -- 93.3%
1. Mississippi -- 60.8%
2. Massachusetts -- 64.8%
3. Kentucky -- 66.7%
4. Arkansas -- 68.3%
5. South Dakota -- 68.8 %
Source: State surveys conducted according to criteria established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Thirty-four states increased their seat belt use this year, the government said yesterday. The federal traffic safety agency had said in September that seat belt use overall was a record 82 percent in 2005.
Hawaii led the nation with 95.3 percent. Puerto Rico and seven other states -- Arizona, California, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington -- scored rates of 90 percent or better.
Mississippi had the lowest rate in the nation with slightly better than 60 percent.
State Department of Transportation Director Rod Haraga said in a written press release that Hawaii's No. 1 ranking is an achievement to be proud of. "But more importantly, hopefully, this will lead to more lives being saved on the road," he said.
DOT spokesman Scott Ishikawa credited enforcement by the four county police departments and promotion by the state Health and Education departments, a heavy media campaign and a strong seat belt law.
"And the $92 fine is a good motivator," he said.
"Safety belts are useless unless people make the effort to wear them," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. "It's good to see more people taking their safety seriously, but we'll save the celebration for the day when everyone buckles up."
New Hampshire and Wyoming did not report statistically reliable estimates, officials said.
Safety belts are considered the best tool in avoiding traffic deaths, and have been used in greater numbers in the past decade. About 58 percent of American motorists buckled up in 1994, and 71 percent wore the belts in 2000.
Department of Transportation officials estimate that with 82 percent wearing their seat belts, about 15,700 fatalities and 350,000 serious injuries are prevented every year.
Safety experts say the progress has been helped by high-profile media campaigns such as "Click It or Ticket," stepped-up enforcement by police officers and the adoption of primary seat belt laws, which allow police to stop motorists who fail to wear their seat belts.
Primary seat belt laws have passed in 22 states, including Hawaii. Most other states have secondary laws, which allow police to issue a seat belt violation only if a driver is stopped for another infraction. New Hampshire has no adult seat belt law.
Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this story.