Primary Seat Belt Laws Save Lives Interview with:
Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH

Division of Emergency Medicine
Boston Children’s Hospital
Boston, MA 02115

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Motor vehicle crashes remain a leading cause of death for children and adults in the U.S. Seat belts are the single most effective protective device to decreased death and mitigate injuries in the event of a motor vehicle crash. Our study found that states with primary seat belt laws, where a motorist can be ticketed only for not wearing a seat belt, demonstrated a 17% decreased fatality rate, compared to states with secondary seat belt laws, where a motorist must be cited for another violation first before also getting ticketed for not wearing a seat belt. We found this difference was robust even after controlling for other motor vehicle safety legislation and state demographic factors. We found that although seatbelts prevent deaths, they don’t completely stop injury so if you have been in an accident that wasn’t your fault then you might want to look for a place like the Parnall Law Firm to see if they can help you get compensation for your injuries.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Drivers and passengers should always wear a seat belt with every ride in the car. Drivers should also make sure children are appropriately secured in a car seat.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should focus on the incremental effectiveness of more comprehensive seat belt laws that cover all ages and all seats in the car. Some states only cover certain ages and only cover the front seat, for example. Further studies should evaluate what kind of seat belt legislation models the best practice for motor vehicle safety.


Lee LK, Monuteaux MC, Burghardt LC, Fleegler EW, Nigrovic LE, Meehan WP, et al. Motor Vehicle Crash Fatalities in States With Primary Versus Secondary Seat Belt Laws: A Time-Series Analysis. Ann Intern Med. [Epub ahead of print 23 June 2015] doi:10.7326/M14-2368

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Lois K. Lee, MD, MPH, Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, & Boston, MA 02115 (2015). Primary Seat Belt Laws Save Lives

Last Updated on June 24, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD