More commercial truck and bus drivers are buckling up than ever before, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The agency compiled the data by observing nearly 21,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses at 827 roadside sites scattered across the U.S.
According to the FMCSA, observers found that 74 percent of commercial truck and bus drivers wore their safety belts, a significant improvement from 2007 when only 65 percent of commercial drivers buckled up.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed no signs of contentment with the improvement.
“Safety belts save lives,” Secretary LaHood said. “We applaud those who are buckling up, but we won’t rest until every commercial driver is using a safety belt.”
FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said that seatbelt use indicates responsible driving.
“Driving a 40-ton truck or a bus full of people is a big responsibility,” Administrator Ferro said. “Drivers owe it to themselves and others to wear a safety belt every time they get behind the wheel.”
According to the FMCSA data, safety belt use for both commercial drivers and their occupants was higher than average – 78 percent – in states where not wearing seat belts is a primary offense. In such states, authorities may pull over and fine motorists for not wearing safety belts. In states where not wearing seat belts is a secondary offense, authorities can enforce the law only if another, primary offense has been committed. In secondary states, just 67 percent of commercial drivers complied with the law. (New Hampshire is the only state with no seat belt laws.)
The FMCSA also found that drivers who worked for regional or national fleets wore safety belts at a rate of 78 percent. Independent owner-operators used safety belts at a rate of 64 percent.
Seat belt use for commercial drivers and commercial vehicle occupants was highest in the West, where 79 percent buckled up, followed by the South at 75 percent, the Midwest at 68 percent, and the Northeast at 64 percent.