Some drivers are still not buckling up, according to CDC report

Not all truckers are using their seat belts as required by law when they are on the road, and some paid with their lives for that decision.

That is one of the most significant takeaways from a new report out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s Vital Signs Report Trucker Safety: Using a Seat Belt Matters, among other things, says:

  • One out of every six drivers of large trucks don’t use their seat belts.
  • More than one in three truck drivers who died in crashes in 2012 were not wearing seat belts.
  • Buckling up could have prevented up to 40 percent of these deaths.
  • Long-haul truck drivers who reported not wearing seat belts also tended to engage in other unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding and committing moving violations. They were also more likely to work for an employer that did not have a written workplace safety program.
  • Long-haul truck drivers who lived in a state with a primary seat belt law – the law that allows police to stop motorists solely for being unbelted – were more likely to report often using a seat belt.

“We know that using a seat belt is the single most effective intervention to prevent injury or death in a motor vehicle crash. However, in 2012 more than one in three truck drivers who died in crashes were not buckled up, a simple step which could have prevented up to 40 percent of these deaths” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias, Ph.D. “Employers and government agencies at all levels can help improve truck driver safety and increase seat belt use among truck drivers by having strong company safety programs and enforcing state and federal laws.”

Drivers are not buckling up as they should for several reasons, according to the CDC’s study. Among them:

  • Some companies do not have written safety policies that require the use of seat belts. The CDC study says, “Companies can establish and enforce belt-use requirements and give incentives or recognition for compliance or consequences for noncompliance.”
  • Seat belts may not fit well. The report says driver’s don’t buckle up because of “…discomfort related to belt positioning, tightness, range of motion, and rubbing as primary reasons not to wear a seat belt.” This is, according to the CD, especially true for female drivers and/or men of shorter stature. “Improvements in belt design might help increase belt use among [drivers], especially female truck drivers, who were shown in this survey to be more likely than males to never use a seat belt.”

What can be done to improve the use of seat belts and reduce the risk of crashes, injuries and deaths among truckers? The CDC suggests:

  • States can help increase seat belt use by truck drivers with high-visibility enforcement of seat belt laws by state troopers and motor carrier safety inspectors.
  • Employers can establish and enforce company safety policies, including belt-use requirements for truck drivers and passengers as well as bans on text-messaging and use of handheld phones.
  • Employers can educate truck drivers about ways to avoid distracted and drowsy driving.
  • Engineering and design changes that provide increased comfort and range of motion and allow adjustments for diverse body types might increase use of seat belts by truck drivers.

The report was based on a 2010 study of 1,265 drivers.