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Am J Public Health. 1976 Sep;66(9):859-64.

Estimates of motor vehicle seat belt effectiveness and use: implications for occupant crash protection.


Estimates of the effectiveness of seat belts, when used, in reducing motor vehicle occupant deaths vary widely. A recently publicized claim by one analyst that seat belts reduce vehicle occupant deaths 70-80 per cent is based on studies found to contain fundamental systematic error. Deaths occur only 50 per cent less often to belted compared to nonbelted vehicle occupants in crashes, according to previously unanalyzed data from three U.S. states during recent years. New belt systems would be about 60 per cent effective with 100 per cent use. But surveys of observed belt use in 1975 U.S. cars indicate that two-thirds of drivers were not using belts. Prospects for widespread adoption and enforcement of belt use laws in the U.S. are not encouraging. Substantial reductions in fatal and other injuries would result from the adoption of requirements mandating automatic (passive) protection for front seat occupants in crashes with forward decelerations.

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