A new focus on motorcycle safety and increased efforts to encourage seatbelt use are paying off, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, who said new figures released today show the national seat belt use rate increased to an all time high and more motorcyclists are wearing their helmets.
“Our efforts are resulting in more Americans taking interest in their own safety and wearing seatbelts and helmets more,” said Secretary Peters. “We will continue to focus on this important issue as long as people are dying on our roads.”
According to the annual National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), an additional three million more Americans wore seat belts last year as seat belt use rose to 82.4 percent, an increase of 1.2 percentage points. Additionally, the survey results released today also showed that motorcycle helmet use increased 7 percentage points to 58 percent.
The survey shows seat belt use in the Northeast rose 4 percentage points, to 78 percent, in the Midwest it rose 2 percentage points to 79 percent and in the West it stood at 93 percent. However, in the South, belt use dropped 3 percentage points to 80 percent.
NHTSA Administrator Nicole R. Nason told a national highway safety conference in Portland, Ore., that the new data show the greatest rise in motorcycle helmet use occurred in the South, which rose by 13 percentage points to 58 percent. Helmet use rose by 11 percentage points in the Northeast to 58 percent and by 5 percentage points in the West to 77 percent. However, helmet use fell by 1 percentage point in the Midwest to 49 percent.
“We are thrilled to hear more riders are wearing their helmets but we don’t want to lose this momentum,” Nason said. “Motorcycle safety is a priority at NHTSA and we are looking at all options to reduce motorcycle fatalities.”
DOT announced in July that 42,642 people died on our nation’s highways in 2006, which was the largest drop in fatalities in 15 years. The nation also saw the lowest highway fatality rate ever recorded of 1.42 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT).