More than 12,000 people’s lives since 1995 could have been saved if they had been wearing seat belts, according to a study by the National Safety Council. In that year, The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states enact primary mandatory seat belt laws but so far only 20 states have done so, and the NTSB is reiterating its call.

"A primary seat belt law is likely to save more lives than possibly any single piece of legislation a state will consider," said NTSB Chairman Ellen G. Engleman. "It is why the Safety Board recommended states adopt these laws in 1995, and why we continue to urge enactment of these laws as a safety priority.”

Last week, Engleman on behalf of the NTSB sent a letter to the governors and legislative leadership of the 29 states with secondary laws and New Hampshire, (New Hampshire does not have an adult seat belt law) reminding them of the Safety Board's recommendation and encouraging them to step-up their efforts to enact a primary law in their state.

Primary seat belt laws allow law enforcement officers to ticket drivers based solely on an observed seat belt violation, just as they do any other motor vehicle law. Currently, 29 states have secondary laws, which means officers can only enforce the seat belt law if the motorist is first stopped for another violation.

According to the National Safety Council study, states that have enacted primary laws since 1995 on average experienced a 15-percentage point increase in belt use. Seat belts are proven to reduce the risk of serious injury or death in a crash by 45 percent, and the study shows 12,177 lives have been lost since 1995 because 30 states have failed to enact the stronger laws.

"If all states moved right now to enact them, 1,400 more lives could be saved next year alone in preventable traffic injury," Said Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D., Administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.