GLEN BURNIE, MD – Recent findings from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office reveal a minor statewide seat belt usage decline. The preliminary results from the 2023 annual Roadside Observational Survey indicate a usage rate of 92.1%, a slight decrease from the 92.7% recorded in 2022. This survey, conducted in June 2023, involved observing 33,882 drivers and 6,531 passengers across 14 jurisdictions in Maryland.
Chrissy Nizer, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator and Governor Wes Moore’s Highway Safety Representative, emphasized the critical importance of seat belt use. “Buckling up takes less than three seconds and is the single most effective way to prevent death and serious injury in a car crash,” Nizer stated. She urged the public to prioritize seat belt use, especially during the upcoming holiday season.
The survey results highlight a correlation between the habits of drivers and passengers regarding seat belt use. In scenarios where the driver was wearing a seat belt, approximately 93% of passengers followed suit. Conversely, in vehicles with unbelted drivers, only 35% of passengers were found to be using seat belts. The data underscores the risk posed by unbelted passengers, who can become hazardous in a crash.
A notable trend observed in the survey is the disparity in seat belt use on different types of roads. There was a nearly 4% drop in seat belt usage on local roads compared to primary and secondary roads. This decline raises concerns as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over half of all collisions in the U.S. occur within a 5-mile radius of home and 69% within a 10-mile radius.
The survey also highlighted the lower seat belt usage in trucks and SUVs. While the overall seat belt rate for trucks stood at 89%, it dropped significantly to 73.9% on local roads. The misconception that larger vehicles are inherently safer contributes to this lower usage rate. However, trucks and SUVs have a higher propensity for rollovers, making seat belts crucial for safety.
Maryland law mandates that all drivers and passengers wear seat belts. Non-compliance can result in an $83 ticket per unbelted passenger over 16. Appropriate booster or child safety seats are required for children under eight unless they are taller than 4 feet 9 inches.
As of 2023, preliminary data indicates that 108 fatalities in car crashes in Maryland involved individuals not wearing seat belts. This statistic particularly concerns teen drivers, among whom seat belt use is typically lower. Car crashes remain a leading cause of death for individuals aged 5 to 24. To combat this, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office is actively promoting the “Be the BUCKLED UP Driver” campaign, focusing on the critical importance of seat belt use.