AIA Backs Primary Seatbelt Recommendations from New Study on Highway and Auto Safety

January 19, 2005

The American Insurance Association (AIA) on Tuesday commended the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) new study titled “Effect on Fatality Risk of Changing from Secondary to Primary Seat Belt Enforcement,” calling it a “must read” for public policymakers.

Each year, motor vehicle crashes cause 42,000 deaths and 3 million injuries. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans from childhood through their thirties. The new IIHS study found that when states strengthen their seat belt laws – moving from secondary enforcement to primary enforcement – driver death rates decline by an estimated 7 percent.

“There is absolutely no question that seat belts save lives and prevent injuries. In fact, it is the most important highway safety measure that can be enacted,” David Snyder, AIA vice president and assistant general counsel, said.

Every day, motor vehicle crashes exact an enormous toll by causing deaths, injuries, and property damage. In fact, motor vehicle accidents cost some $230 billion annually. These costs are sustained first by crash victims and their families, but also by insurance consumers through higher than necessary premiums, by employers through lost productivity, and by taxpayers who pay a large amount of crash-related medical costs.

“Because about one-half of a typical auto insurance premium goes for costs relating to personal injuries, the primary seatbelt enforcement will help lower insurance costs as well as saving lives,” Snyder added.

Currently, only 20 states and the District of Columbia allow for primary enforcement of a seat belt law; the remaining states allow 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 as much as 15 percent higher than those with a secondary enforcement law.

“This report is a must read for anyone seriously interested in improving highway safety. The IIHS confirms that, while progress has been made, many more states need to enact this critical safety tool,” Snyder said.

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