Commercial vehicle safety belt use

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced that safety belt use by drivers of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles increased to 72% in 2008. That is up 7 percentage points from 65% the previous year.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has an 18-point safety agenda including these safety belt-related recommendations: all states should enact primary safety belt laws; audible reminders for safety belt use in commercial vehicles; contrasting colors for safety belts so law enforcement can quickly identify non-users; state adoption of the failure to wear a safety belt defense; and denial of worker compensation for drivers who fail to use safety belts.

ATA’s safety agenda also recommends that the federal government explore incentives and penalties to motivate states to pass primary belt laws. Primary safety belt laws allow police to stop drivers for not wearing one. Secondary safety belt laws allow police to ticket drivers for not wearing safety belts, but only if police first stop the driver for another offense.

The trucking group commends Minnesota, Arkansas, and Florida for their recent adoptions of primary safety belt laws. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have primary safety belt laws and 20 have secondary laws.

FMCSA’s safety belt statistics are part of the 2008 Seat Belt Usage Study, which FMCSA uses to measure the effectiveness of its Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Program. Safety belt usage among commercial drivers has increased from just 54% since 2005, when the program began.
Other key findings in this study include:

•A rise in safety belt use among passengers of commercial motor vehicles to 61%.
•Professional truck drivers for major regional or national fleets showed higher usage at 75%, versus 62% for independent owner-operators.
•Safety belt usage rates for truck drivers and their occupants were highest at 81% in the West, compared with 77% in the South, 60% in the Midwest, and 56% in the Northeast.
•Safety belt usage for both drivers and occupants was higher at 80% in states that had primary belt use laws than 64% in states with secondary belt use laws.
•Commercial motor vehicle drivers and their occupants had higher safety belt usage rates on weekend days over weekdays, higher rates in urban areas over suburban or rural areas, and higher rates in faster traffic over slower traffic.

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