He gives an example: "A belted person is going to be in the correct position when the air bag deploys and receive the maximum benefits of the air bag.
"If vehicle engineers could rely on motor vehicle occupants being belted, the engineers could design air bag systems and other systems that would be more effective."
Lastly, seat belts help drivers keep control of their vehicles in a crash, Haseltine says. "In a lot of crashes, the vehicle is still moving. There's a certain degree of control that perhaps can be exercised by the driver if the driver is sitting in the driving position with his hands on the wheel and seated in a position where he can get at the pedals."
One hundred percent?
Despite all best efforts, will there be a day when everyone wears a seat belt?
"Probably not," Haseltine says, noting that so far, no one has been able to achieve and maintain higher than about 96 percent.
"As a nation, moving from 81 to 96 percent, will realize a huge reduction in fatalities and serious injuries. But, I think we will always have 3 or 4 or 5 percent who are not restrained -- people who are adamant or part-time users, who buckle up when they think they are most at risk."
Yet, law enforcement must continue making a difference because the risk is always there.
Commercial motor vehicle drivers
Another population that's less likely to buckle up is commercial motor vehicle drivers.
In 2003, the Department of Transportation found that only 48 percent of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers wore their safety belt. As a result, the Secretary of Transportation created the CMV Safety Belt Partnership to address the problem and get the word out to drivers that they need to buckle up. Since then, safety belt use has increased to 59 percent (as of 2006).
"We still have much work to do," says Janet Kumer, Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Safety Belt Program manager for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and coordinator of the CMV Safety Belt Partnership.
The "Be Ready. Be Buckled." campaign appeals to the truck driver's professionalism. To find out more, see www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safetybelt.
Buckling up employees
Not only are traffic crashes the leading cause of death in the workplace and a leading cause of work-related disabilities (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001), they also lead to economic costs such as lost productivity, workers compensation and medical costs, and higher insurance premiums.
Buckle Up Employees: A Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) Corporate Seat Belt Program includes seat belt policies, daily campaign messages and activities, a newsletter article, a poster, paycheck stuffers, strategies to incentivize belt use, instructions for conducting an on-site observational survey to determine an organization's use rate, and more. See www.trafficsafety.org/buckle.asp.
Law enforcement agencies can benefit by becoming a NETS member and by promoting NETS and its resources.
Child restraints save lives
When talking about seat belts, it's important to note that motor vehicle-related injuries kill more children and young adults, ages 1 to 34, than any other single cause in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Each day about four children ages 14 years or younger die and about 556 are injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts. In 2005, the number of children who died totaled 1,451 children.
The CDC says many deaths can be prevented by placing children in age- and size-appropriate restraint systems, which reduces serious and fatal injuries by more than half. Of the children ages 0 to 14 years, who were killed in motor vehicle crashes during 2005, nearly half were unrestrained.
Whether or not a child is restrained often depends on whether or not the driver is restrained. Almost 40 percent of children riding with unbelted drivers were themselves unrestrained, according to a national study of restraint use (National SAFE KIDS Campaign, 2002).