The ultimate goal is zero fatalities.
Seat belts save lives, but getting people to use them – even to protect their own lives – is a challenge. Public education is one way to keep the issue in front of motorists, along with legislation. MoDOT supports each approach, attacking the problem with focused marketing campaigns and reinforcing it with hard facts to back legislative efforts.
Seat belts are one of the simplest things vehicle occupants can do to protect themselves in the event of a crash, but it is a challenge to ensure everyone is buckled up every trip, every time, day or night. Public education and legislation are two ways to keep the issue in front of motorists. MoDOT supports each approach, attacking the problem with focused marketing campaigns and reinforcing it with hard facts to back legislative efforts and media campaigns. Several municipalities across the state have enacted primary ordinances within city or county limits. Missouri currently has one county and 68 municipalities that have adopted primary seat belt ordinances, representing over 28.1% of the state’s population.
Based on 111,101 driver and front seat passenger observations, seat belt use in Missouri for 2023 was 87.0% - a 1.87% decrease from 2022. Douglas County was the lowest at 53.2%, and Montgomery County was the highest at 97.8% based on weighted data. Nationwide numbers always run about one year behind in state numbers - the national average for seat belt use in 2022 was 91.6% (2023 data is not yet available). Overall, in 2022, Missouri ranked 34th among the 56 surveyed states and territories (ranging from 67.0% to 96.5%) and 5th among secondary law states (ranging from 75.6% to 93.1%).
MoDOT continues to work with external partners to improve Missouri's safety culture through statewide strategic initiatives such as Buckle Up Phone Down and by coordinating NHTSA - funded occupant protection enforcement campaigns and providing educational programs such as TRACTION, B.R.A.K.E.S. and ThinkFirst.
Purpose of the Measure:
This measure tracks annual trends in seat belt use in passenger vehicles. This data drives the development and focus of the Missouri Triennial Highway Safety Plan and supports Missouri’s Show Me Zero Plan, and provides data for highway safety grant project selection.
Measurement and Data Collection:
Each June, a statewide survey is conducted at 560 preselected locations in 28 counties. The data collected is calculated into a seat belt usage rate using a formula approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Data collection locations are selected from counties that represent 85% of the state’s vehicle occupant fatalities. While the data collection plan is the same each year for consistency, NHTSA guidelines require survey sites to be re-selected every five years based on updated fatality data. The 2023 survey was the first survey using updated survey sites and, while 1.9% lower than 2022, does not necessarily mean that fewer people are buckling up; rather, all new sites have been surveyed and data pertaining to those sites for 2023 - 2027 can be compared similar to how 2018 - 2022 data was comparable. The target for this measure is updated annually in October for the next calendar year and is established as the current national average.