WASHINGTON – Seat belt use is reaching record levels, so just who are the holdouts who fail to buckle up? Often they are young men who live in rural areas and drive pickups, the government says.
About 48 million people do not regularly put on seat belts when they are on the road, a figure the government's highway safety agency hopes to lower with an annual public education campaign ahead of the summer driving season.
The "Click It or Ticket" campaign involves checkpoints, patrols and advertisements to help enforce seat belt laws. It runs from May 22 through June 4.
The latest report on seat belt use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says men account for 65 percent of the more than 31,000 people killed each year in passenger vehicles.
The report being released Monday found:
—58 percent of those killed who were not wearing a seat belt crashed along rural roads.
—in crashes involving pickup trucks, about seven in 10 people who died were unbelted.
—more than six in 10 people age 8-44 who were killed inside a passenger vehicle were not buckled up.
The agency said that lap and shoulder safety belts reduce the risk of death for those in the front seat of passenger cars by 45 percent and the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries by 50 percent.
The fatality risk for front-seat motorists in sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans who wear seat belts is reduced by 60 percent; moderate-to-critical injuries by 65 percent.
The public education campaign is using $31 million in state and federal grants for national and state ads that seek to attract young drivers who watch sporting events such as NASCAR and baseball.
"Those who still don't buckle up need to know that police officers will be aggressively enforcing seat belt laws throughout the country and that violators will be ticketed," said Phil Haseltine, executive director of the National Safety Council's Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign.
Transportation officials have pushed for more states to enact laws allowing police to stop motorists solely for failing to wear a seat belts. The laws, called primary enforcement safety belt laws, have been enacted in 25 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The remaining states have secondary enforcement, which allows tickets for seat belt violations only if motorists are stopped for another offense. New Hampshire has no seat belt law for adults.