Seat Belts

Surprising Reversal 

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, Texas fell below the national average for seat belt use in 2021. This is particularly noteworthy because, in the two decades before 2021, Texas had consistently ranked higher than the national average. Failure to buckle up was just one of several risky driving behaviors that increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Additionally in 2021, of the Texans who died in fatal crashes where restraint use was a known factor, 46 percent were reported as not restrained.
In 2021, more than 46% of fatal crash victims were not restrained.

Pandemic Impact on Restraint Use

As the data shows in other emphasis areas, the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant effect on crash fatalities and serious injuries, including crashes where drivers or passengers were not wearing a seat belt. Before the pandemic, serious injuries had been trending slightly downward. Hover over the trend indicators below to see fatality and serious injury totals for each year. 
Note: The data consistently shows that the Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact on risky driving behaviors, including speeding and failure to wear a seat belt. 

Gender Risk Factors

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Census data, men are overwhelmingly more likely than women to drive a freight truck, delivery van, or other vehicle for work. As a result, male drivers spend considerably more time behind the wheel. This helps explain the three-to-one gender disparity in crash fatalities among unbuckled drivers and passengers. Observational data also shows that men are likelier to make the risky choice of driving without a seat belt. 

2021: Total Population of Texas (50.3% Female, 49.7% Male ), No-Restraint Fatalities (26.9% Female, 73.1% Male)  Average Annual Miles Driven: (10,142 - 38% Female, 16,550 - 62% Male)

Fatalities and Serious Injuries by Gender

Male drivers make up the majority of serious crash injuries and crash fatalities. Twice as many unbuckled male drivers are seriously injured in traffic crashes. That ratio increases to more than two and a half times when comparing the genders in fatal no-restraint crashes. 

Drivers and Passengers

As this visualization shows, drivers who fail to use a seat belt are more than twice as likely to die in a crash than other vehicle occupants. The risk of dying in a no-restraint fatal crash increased for both drivers and their passengers in 2020 and 2021, but the highest number of fatalities was among unbuckled drivers.

Unbuckled Fatalities and Serious Injuries by County

Zoom, pan, or hover to view fatalities and serious injuries for each Texas county. The darker colors indicate larger totals, which correlate in most instances with higher population densities or higher vehicle miles traveled.

Rural vs. Urban No-Restraint Fatalities and Serious Injuries

Data shows that both serious and fatal injury crashes occur more often in rural than urban areas in Texas. Although many factors contribute to every traffic crash, speeding is likely a major cause.
The fact that the number of crash fatalities in rural areas is even higher than serious crash injuries is particularly concerning. 

Young-Adult Risk Takers

As these visualizations show clearly, young adults in the 25-34 age range are the group most likely to be seriously injured or killed while driving without a seat belt. This risk decreases as drivers get older and engage in fewer risky driving behaviors.

Size Does Not Equal Safety 

Drivers of larger vehicles may be lulled into a false sense of security. Although most vehicles on the road are passenger cars, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are well represented in the visualization below. A higher tendency to roll over makes pickups and SUVs more likely than cars to be involved in fatal single-vehicle crashes. Regardless of the size of their vehicle, all drivers and passengers should buckle up — every rider, every time. 

Ejection Fatalities and Serious Injuries

The likelihood that a crash will be fatal increases significantly if drivers or passengers are ejected from their vehicle.
Toggle the Injury Severity filter on this visualization, which shows that fatalities among unbuckled vehicle occupants who are ejected are almost twice as high as the number of serious injuries.

What TxDOT Is Doing

Reaching Young Drivers
Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, which is why TxDOT developed the Teen Click It or Ticket campaign. It has an increased social media presence alongside traditional television and radio spots to emphasize the importance of wearing a seat belt to protect teens and their loved ones.
Photo of two teenagers holding hands in car. If you love it click it. You protect the people of love most. Shouldn't that include you too? Every rider, every ride. Learn more at TxDOT
Rollover Convincers
The Texas Department of Transportation developed a rollover simulator with a cab from a pickup mounted on a frame with a motor. The doors and windshield have been removed so that you can see in the cab and watch what occurs to crash dummies during a rollover crash. TxDOT uses the rollover simulator to educate the public about the beneficial use of seat belts even in a low-speed collision. Crash dummies demonstrate the surprising amount of force generated in a low-speed collision, giving people a first-hand look at the benefits a seat belt provides.
The simulator is a very effective tool for safety presentations at schools, businesses, fairs, community events, drivers’ education programs and other events.
Photo of person buckling smiling child into car seat. Save me with a seat. #EndTheStreakTX TxDOT
Save Me with a Seat
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among children. While most people believe their children are properly buckled up, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration points out that 46 percent of all car seats are misused. The best way to keep young children safe in your vehicle is to make sure they’re properly buckled up in a car seat. That means selecting a car seat that’s appropriate for a child’s age and size and installing it correctly. Through its district offices, TxDOT also offers free child safety seat inspections to the public.

Click It or Ticket.

The Click It or Ticket campaign aims to save lives and urges Texans to buckle up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that, since its inception 19 years ago, “Click It or Ticket” has saved 6,234 lives, prevented more than 100,000 serious injuries and saved Texas more than $23.6 billion in related economic costs. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying by 45 percent for people in the front seat of passenger cars, and by 60 percent for those traveling in pickups trucks.
Photo of man driving without seat belt at night looking at police lights in his rearview mirror. Click it or ticket, day and night. TxDOT