"We must continue to educate all motorists about the importance of buckling up," said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO.
The ATA's 18-point safety agenda includes the following recommendations involving safety belts:
* States should adopt primary safety belt laws. The federal government should look into incentives and penalties for implementing such laws. ATA recognizes Minnesota, Arkansas and Florida for their recent adoptions of the law. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have primary safety belt laws and 20 have secondary laws, which states that the police can only ticket if they first stop the driver for another offense.
* Commercial vehicles should have audible reminders for safety belt use.
* Safety belts should have contrasting colors so that law enforcement can identify non-users.
* States should implement the failure to wear safety belt defense.
* Drivers who fail to buckle up should be denied workers compensation.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's 2008 Seat Belt Usage Study found that usage increased to 72 percent in 2008, up from 65 percent in 2007. The percentage of users was at 54 percent in 2005, when the program started.
The study also found that passengers of commercial trucks buckled up more this year, with 61 percent. Professional truck drivers for major regional or national fleets used seat belts more often than independent owner-operators, at 75 percent and 62 percent, respectively. In states with primary belt use laws, usage was higher at 80 percent, as opposed to 64 percent in states with secondary belt regulations.