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CDC Study Reports Seat Belt Use Low Where Driving Not Primary Job

Release Date: July 28, 2016

Roadway incidents involving motorized vehicles accounted for 24% of fatal occupational injuries in the United States during 2013 and were the leading cause of fatal injuries among workers. In 2013, workers’ compensation costs for serious, nonfatal injuries among work-related roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles were estimated at $2.96 billion. Although seat belts have been shown to significantly reduce injuries, previous research on worker seat belt use has been narrowly focused on only a few occupations. Use of lap/shoulder seat belts reduces the risk for fatal injuries to front seat occupants of cars by 45% and the risk to light-truck occupants by 60%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released the first report on seat belt use among a broad range of occupational groups in a representative, population-based sample. A previous CDC study found that approximately 14% of long-haul truck drivers did not use a seat belt on every trip and that never using a seat belt at work was associated with living in a state that did not have a primary seat belt law.

The current report estimates that workers in several groups with occupations for which driving is not a primary job duty report lower frequency of seat belt use. The CDC study Seat Belt Use Among Adult Workers - 21 States, 2013 suggests that it is possible that not enough attention has been directed toward promoting seat belt use among the 14 million workers where driving is not their primary job duty.

To characterize seat belt use among adult workers by occupational group, CDC analyzed data from the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and found that “not always” using a seat belt was significantly associated with certain occupational groups. All responses to the question about frequency of seat belt use except “always” (i.e., “nearly always,” “sometimes,” “seldom,” and “never”) were combined and categorized as “not always.”

Data from 84,593 respondents were included in the analysis, including 54,187 (64%) who lived in states with primary seat belt laws and 30,406 (36%) who lived in states with secondary seat belt laws. Fourteen of the 21 states reviewed had primary seat belt laws in 2013; in these states, a driver can be stopped and ticketed solely for not using a seat belt. Six states had secondary seat belt laws; in these states, a driver can be ticketed for not using a seat belt only if stopped for another offense.

For all occupational groups, the prevalence of “not always” using seat belts was higher in states with secondary seat belt laws (23.6% unadjusted) than in states with primary seat belt laws (10.4% unadjusted). After controlling for factors known to influence seat belt use, there was substantial variability among occupational groups in self-reported seat belt use. The occupational groups with the highest adjusted prevalence of “not always” using seat belts included construction and extraction (14.1%); legal (14.0%); installation, maintenance, and repair (12.8%); protective service (12.7%); and farming, fishing, and forestry (12.7%).

To help increase the use of seat belts, CDC recommends that employers establish comprehensive safety programs that require consistent seat belt use at all times, states implement primary seat belt laws, and seat belt safety advocates focus interventions on the occupational groups with the lowest reported seat belt use.

For additional information, see “Seat Belt Use Among Adult Workers - 21 States, 2013” in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Report (MMWR) at

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The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.

COPYRIGHT ©2016, ISO Services, Inc.