Truck Drivers in the Northeast Less Likely to Buckle Up

Last year brought record use of seat belts in the U.S., but those who drive for a living are still behind in using the life-saving device.

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When it comes to using seat belts, credited with saving nearly 14,000 lives in 2015, commercial truck and bus drivers are catching up with American motorists overall. 

Safety belt usage by commercial truck and bus drivers climbed to a record 86 percent last year, up from 65 percent nine years earlier, in 2007, according to a new national survey.

The findings, released Monday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, contrast with separate data released in November that found 90 percent of Americans using seat belts in June 2016, up from 88.5 percent the year before.

The FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has surveyed belt use by commercial drivers six times since 2007, with the rates showing a steady increase. Last year's survey involved observing nearly 40,000 commercial drivers operating medium- to heavy-duty trucks and buses at more than 1,000 roadside sites nationwide.

The usage rate for commercial drivers and passengers was highest on expressways at 89 percent, versus 83 percent on surface streets, the FMCSA found. Male truck and bus drivers buckled up at a rate of 86 percent, compared to 84 percent by their female counterparts.

Regionally, the survey found commercial vehicle drivers and their occupants in the West, Midwest and the South wore safety belts at an 87 percent rate.  Only in the Northeast region was safety belt usage by truck and bus drivers different and significantly lower at 71 percent.

“Buckling up your safety belt, regardless of the type of vehicle you drive or ride in, remains the simplest, easiest and most effective step you can take toward helping to protect your life,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Cathy Gautreaux said in a release. “While it is good news that we are making strong progress, we need to continue to emphasize that everyone, everywhere securely fasten their safety belt 100 percent of the time.”