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Michigan is seeing the lowest seat belt compliance rate since 2004 – what does this mean for your safety?

A new MSU study finds that seat belt use has reached a decades-long low. Traffic safety advocates explain what this means for Michigan drivers.
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MICHIGAN, USA — Michigan’s seat belt usage has decreased sharply from 2019 to 2021, a study by Michigan State University finds. This year’s numbers are the lowest compliance rate since 2004.

The MSU study concludes that seat belt use has dropped from 94.4% to 92.6% over the two-year period. Traffic safety advocates find this concerning.

“The seat belt use numbers are moving in the wrong direction, and it’s important to turn things around as quickly as possible,” said Michael L. Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

“Seat belts are the cornerstone of any effective traffic safety strategy. We must continually remind drivers and passengers of all ages to buckle up, every trip, every time.”

Just last month, the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center announced that Michigan traffic deaths peaked above 1,000 for the first time in three years. The 2020 total of 1,083 fatalities signified a 10% increase from 2019 – almost beating the record-high in 2007, with 1,084 deaths.

Current data shows that the number of 2021 fatalities may be increasing, as well.

This year’s seat belt usage statistics are a direct reflection of the rise in traffic deaths, MDOT reports. Every 1% increase in seat belt use means an estimated 10 fewer traffic deaths and 100 fewer serious injuries, MDOT reports.

Traffic safety advocates hope to increase the state’s rate of seat belt use in the upcoming years. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning launched a campaign last month to enforce seat belt usage. Included was a paid advertising effort encouraging rear seat belt use, a video titled “Backseat Excuses.”

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