Study: Safety Belt Use Still Important

November 19, 2007

Using the 2006 fatal crash data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Los Angeles-based Farmers Insurance has completed a study to determine the most influential factors in drivers’ mortality rate in multi-vehicle accidents.

“Once again, we find strong statistical evidence that seat belts remain the most important protection for the driver,” noted Kevin Mabe, Economist at Farmers, who completed the study. “We found that when a driver used a seat belt, the odds of a fatality dropped nearly 70 percent compared to a driver who did not.” Earlier this year, Mabe released a study on 2005 accident data and concluded similar results.

The analysis incorporates a logistic econometric model with 41 variables, accounting for factors such as road and traffic conditions at the time of the fatal accident, location and time, accident events, vehicle specifics, driver demographics, and safety features. “Controlling for these additional external factors allows us to more precisely isolate the degree to which safety belts save lives,” Mabe explained.

Several other factors showed significance in decreasing the odds of a driver’s death. For example, rear-end collisions proved less deadly than head-on or T-bone collisions. Larger vehicles, such as trucks, SUVs, and vans, appeared to protect the driver better than a typical automobile. Dry roads, in contrast with wet roads, decrease the odds of a fatality by over 10 percent, suggesting that drivers should use caution when navigating slick roads.

Other factors increased danger on the roads. “Nighttime and winter driving tended to produce more deadly accidents, and drivers should continue to exercise additional caution,” Mabe noteed. Certain accident events, such as rollovers, ejections, and vehicle fires, greatly reduce the survivability in an accident. Motorcycle accidents showed remarkably increased mortality rates compared to other vehicles.

“Not all factors proved predictive,” Mabe said. Driver height and weight appeared to have little influence on the outcome of the accident. “However, age plays an important part. Older drivers, as well as young new drivers, have an increased risk.” The model also showed little evidence of differences between regions of the U.S.

“A driver’s three-second choice to ‘buckle up’ will more than double his or her chances to survive a severe accident. Farmers encourages everyone to take precaution and use their safety belts.”

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Source: Farmers

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