And one worrisome trend, USA Today reports, is that in some states—such as New Jersey—rear seatbelt use is falling as front belt use rises.
The combination of buckled driver and unbuckled backseat passengers can turn those in back into a "back-seat bullet," notes USA Today, citing a state safety director. Just like the unrestrained pets that we reported on earlier this week, those unrestrained passengers will be hurled forward at about the same rate of speed that the vehicle was traveling, until they hit something like the dashboard, windshield, or other occupants.
Click-it-or-ticket campaigns, as well as public-service campaigns such as those with Vince and Larry, the crash-test dummies, have gotten people to make buckling up part of their routine of getting into a vehicle.
Seatbelt use has jumped from less than 15 percent in the early 1980s to more than 80 percent in the later part of this past decade, and over several decades hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved by seatbelt use.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), there are now six states—Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Texas—that require rear-seat passengers to be buckled up. But in 25 states, seatbelts still aren't required for some passengers.
Nationally, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), seatbelt use is at about 84 percent, though it varies quite a bit on a state-by-state basis. In car-smart Michigan, 98 percent of drivers buckle up, while just 68 percent of those in Wyoming fasten their seatbelt. State tactics for enforcement vary greatly, along with fines, but in more states than not, you can now be pulled over solely for not buckling up.
To see what seatbelt laws apply in your state, and to get a completely look at how they measure up with those in other states, see this table from the IIHS.