Seat Belt Usage Hits All-Time High, Thanks In Part To Southern Drivers

CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that fewer Americans used their seat belts in 2011. According to NHTSA, the percentage of drivers and passengers wearing the safety devices slipped from 85% to 84%.

At first glance, that change might seem insignificant, but 1% of the 314,686,189 folks living in the U.S. is more than 3.1 million people. Even a 1% drop in seat belt usage could help account for early reports (also from NHTSA) that traffic fatalities have been creeping up from previous record lows.

But hold the phone: NHTSA has released preliminary stats for 2012, and it appears that seat belt usage is rebounding this year, hitting a record high. Although there was a dip of 1% in 2011, early data indicates that in 2012, 86% of Americans are using their seat belts — more than ever before.

Geographically speaking, the South showed the biggest gains: there, the percentage of occupants using seat belts…

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