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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004 Apr 2;53(12):257-60.

Impact of primary laws on adult use of safety belts--United States, 2002.


Motor-vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among persons aged 1-34 years in the United States. Safety belts are the single most effective means of reducing crash-related deaths. State laws have had a critical role in increasing belt use. As of December 2003, the District of Columbia (DC), 20 states, and three U.S. territories had primary laws (i.e., primary enforcement safety-belt laws), which allow police to stop a motorist and issue a citation solely for being unbelted. Another 29 states had secondary laws, which allow police to issue a safety-belt citation only after stopping a motorist for a different violation. Primary laws are more effective than secondary laws for increasing safety-belt use and reducing traffic fatalities. To assess safety-belt use among U.S. states and territories with and without primary laws, CDC analyzed data from the 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated that the prevalence of self-reported safety-belt use was higher among states with primary laws (85.3%) than among states with secondary laws (74.4%). To reduce deaths from motor-vehicle crashes, states should consider enactment of primary laws.

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