Charlotte, N.C. — Drivers and passengers in North Carolina buckled up less often in 2012 than previous years, according to data released Thursday by AAA and the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.
The state's buckle-up rate fell to 87.5 percent, down from 89.5 percent in 2011. Nationally, drivers and passengers used seat belts 86 percent of the time in 2012, up from 84 percent in 2011.
David Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, reminded drivers in a statement to buckle up and ensure all passengers are in a proper safety restraint.
"Wearing a seat belt or vehicle restraint is the safest single thing anyone in a vehicle can do," he said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt usage reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. For trucks, SUVs and minivans, seat belts reduce the risk by 60 percent.
Through the first half of 2013, about 41 percent of people killed in a vehicle crash in North Carolina were unrestrained, according to state crash data.
North Carolina passed a law in 1985 making it a primary violation not to wear a seat belt, which means a police officer can pull over and cite a motorist for not wearing a seat belt.
The state requires all passengers – front and back seat – to wear a seat belt, but North Carolina's primary law applies only to the front seat and is secondary for the back seat.