The failure by most states to allow police officers to pull over drivers who are not wearing seat belts has cost about 12,000 lives since the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) first recommended the passage of such laws in 1995, according to a study, the New York Times
The study, conducted by Preusser Research Group, a consulting firm in Trumbull, Conn., compares states with "primary" seat belt laws, which allow police officers to pull over cars solely because drivers or front-seat passengers are unbelted, with those that have "secondary" laws, which do not allow the police to pull over cars for that reason alone.
In secondary-law states, the police can issue tickets for not buckling up if they pull drivers over for some other reason, like speeding. Seat belt usage rates are 15 percentage points higher in states with primary laws than in those with secondary seat belt laws, according to the study.
"A primary seat belt law is likely to save more lives than possibly any single piece of legislation a state will consider," said Ellen G. Engleman, chair of NTSB.
The study predicts that 1,400 people will die next year who would have lived if their states had seat belt use rates typical of states with primary laws, according to the Times
The study was commissioned by the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign, an effort by the government and the automotive industry to increase seat belt use, the Times