Occupant Protection

Seatbelt Safety: Keep New Hampshire safe! Buckle up!

One of the safest choices a driver and a passenger can make is buckle up as soon as they sit in a motor vehicle.

  • In 2021, the national rate for using a seat belt was at 90.4%.1
  • In 2017, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives.1
  • New Hampshire is the only state in the county that does not require people eighteen of age and older to wear seat belts.2
  • In New Hampshire, from 2009-2018, 793 passenger vehicle occupants were killed. 3 New Hampshire is the only state in the country that does not require people eighteen years of age and older to wear seat belts.3 Because of this New Hampshire usually has the lowest or one of the lowest seat belt usage rates in the country. As a result of this New Hampshire typically has the nation’s highest or one of the highest unbelted fatality rates.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), shows an estimated seat belt use rate increase from 83.8% in 2011 to 90.3% in 2020.2
  • New Hampshire’s belt usage rate is measured annually through the seat belt observational surveys. The 2019 survey shows a seat belt usage rate around 70%, which is a decrease since 2018 at a rate of around 76%.2 The national average rate is 90%.2 New Hampshire’s unbelted fatality rate has historically fluctuated between 60% and 70% every year.

By wearing seat belts and buckling children into age and size appropriate car seats and booster seats, people can reduce the risk of serious injury and death by half.3

What Works

  • Primary seat belt laws allow police officers to stop and ticket someone for not buckling up. On average, primary laws result in higher rates of seat belt use than secondary seat belt laws, which allow officers to give tickets only if they have pulled the driver over for another reason. Seat belt laws are most effective when they cover occupants in all seats of the vehicle.
  • Increased penalties for violating seat belt laws may include higher fines or points on a driver’s license.
  • Short-term, high-visibility enforcement involves a brief period of increased police efforts including checkpoints or saturation patrols. These efforts are highly publicized through a media campaign that mixes both earned media coverage and paid advertisements. Combining law enforcement and media coverage is particularly effective for reaching people who typically don’t use seat belts regularly, such as men, teens, and young adults.
  • Combined nighttime enforcement programs are short-term, highly visible enforcement strategies. They are conducted at night, when seat belt use is lowest and crashes are most common. They are combined with enforcement of other laws, such as impaired driving laws. This can help law enforcement target limited funding and resources for the greatest public safety impact.

Find these strategies and more at the Center for Disease and Control Prevention.

1 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Seat Belts.
2 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts.
3 Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Buckle Up: Restraint Use. Buckle Up: Restraint Use