2021 SafeTREC Traffic Safety Fact Sheet: Occupant Protection


Restraint devices such as seat belts are a key element of motor vehicle occupant protection systems. Each year, NHTSA conducts the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) that measures, among many variables, the use of seat belts by occupants age eight and older. The 2019 NOPUS reported that seat belt use was 90.7 percent among front-seat passengers, a slight increase from the 89.6 percent observed in 2018. Additionally, the 2019 survey found that seat belt use increased during both weekday rush hours and non rush hours. Use during weekday rush hours increased from 89.3 percent in 2018 to 90.7 percent in 2019 and use during non-rush hours increased from 89.1 percent in 2018 to 90.8 percent in 2019.

Historically, road safety efforts focused on changing human behaviors to prevent crashes. The Safe System approach reframes efforts to save lives by expecting crashes to happen and focusing attention on reducing the severity of injuries when a crash occurs. By understanding the nuances of occupant protection crashes, transportation professionals can better address every aspect of crash risks and implement multiple layersof protection to ensure that everyone traveling on California roadways will go safely. Analyses presented in the occupant protection program area include fatal and serious injuries where a driver or passenger in a passenger vehicle was unrestrained. Occupant protection crashes in this report are defined as crashes where one or more occupants in a passenger vehicle was unrestrained. Under this program area, there is additional analyses that address aging road users and child passenger safety.

Garrett Fortin
Jill F. Cooper
Publication date: 
September 30, 2021
Publication type: 
Fact Sheet