Why Aren't Teens Buckling Up?


You've heard it before—seat belts save lives. You may have seen statistics that prove that statement, but what you may not know is, according to Teen Driver Source, 1,885 young drivers (ages 15-20) died in traffic crashes in 2020, a 17% increase from 1,616 in 2019; More than half (52%) were not wearing a seat belt. However, teens who say their parents set rules and monitor their driving are twice as likely to wear a seat belt as teens with less involved parents.

So why aren't teens buckling up? When asked, they say they forget, they aren't going far, seat belts are uncomfortable, they wrinkle your clothes, nobody else is doing it, it's not cool or they think they are likely to be harmful in an accident. Passengers say they are uncomfortable with a seat belt on if they are trying to sleep, or there aren't enough seat belts in the vehicle. Although teens might not report this, they tend to feel invincible and think "that won't happen to me" when they hear about other accidents where teens who didn't wear seat belts in an accident were hurt or even killed. Some might not wear a seat belt because they have been buckled in their whole lives, and not wearing a seat belt is a way to exert their independence. Adults know these "reasons" aren't justifiable when it comes to something that can be a real life saver.

Buckle Up, Buttercup!
As a parent, what can you do to convince your kids to wear their seat belt? For one thing, make sure you're setting a good example—always wear your seat belt. They don't just save the lives of teens, they save everyone's lives. Also, since many states have laws that require drivers to wear seat belts, remind them they could get a ticket if they are stopped.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that the following measures taken by law enforcement, car manufacturers and parents could also help:

  • Strengthening existing seat belt laws
  • Enhancing seat belt reminders in vehicles
  • High visibility of law enforcement near schools and other popular locations for teens
  • Stronger seat belt component of graduated driver's license laws, such as delaying full  licensure if there's a seat belt citation
  • Stronger parental oversight mechanisms, including in-vehicle monitoring devices

There's only so much any of us can do to encourage teens to use their seat belts, but these measures might at least make them stop and consider it. 

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