Half of all passenger vehicle deaths are unbuckled occupants

NHTSA kicks off Click It or Ticket
campaign to reduce traffic fatalities

(May 27, 2023) The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is kicking off its annual Click It or Ticket campaign to encourage drivers and passengers to buckle up, reminding everyone that seat belts save lives. State and local law enforcement agencies nationwide are working together during a heightened enforcement period from May 22 through June 4 to protect drivers and passengers from the risks associated with riding in a vehicle unbelted.

“Putting on your seat belt only takes two seconds, but it can save your life,” said NHTSA Chief Counsel Ann Carlson. “Your seat belt is your best protection against serious or fatal injuries in a crash – and wearing your seat belt is also the law in most states. Whether you’re in the front seat or the back, use your seat belt on every trip, every time.”

NHTSA also released an Occupant Protection Traffic Safety report that shows pickup truck drivers and passengers have had the highest percentage of unrestrained fatalities across all vehicle types for nearly 20 years. In 2021, 60% of pickup truck drivers and 64% of pickup truck passengers killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts. This group continues to be at the forefront of programs to increase seat belt use.

Unbelted passenger vehicle occupants don’t fare much better. The number of passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes from 2018 to 2021 has increased every year. In 2018, there were 9,545 unrestrained fatalities. In 2021, 11,813 passenger vehicle occupants who died in a crash (45%) were not wearing a seat belt.

Data shows that over the years, a greater percentage of unrestrained fatalities occur at night than during the day. In 2021, 57% of people who died in nighttime crashes were unrestrained, compared to 43% who died during the day.

In January 2022, the U.S. Department of Transportation released the comprehensive National Roadway Safety Strategy, a roadmap to address the national crisis in traffic fatalities and serious injuries. It adopts the safe system approach and builds multiple layers of protection with safer roads, safer people, safer vehicles, safer speeds and better post-crash care.

The NRSS is complemented by unprecedented safety funding included in President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and in February, the Department announced more than $800 million in grants to help communities carry out projects that can address high-crash areas. DOT also launched the next phase of the NRSS, its Call to Action campaign, and released a one-year progress report and accompanying data visualizations that highlight the extent and magnitude of the U.S. roadway safety problem.